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Special Tactics Pararescue

A Special Tactics pararescueman’s (PJ) primary function is to perform personnel recovery operations and provide battlefield emergency medical care within the special operations battlefield. A PJ’s unique technical rescue skill sets are utilized during humanitarian and combat operations; they deploy anywhere, anytime, employ air-land-sea tactics into restricted environments to authenticate, extract, treat, stabilize and evacuate injured or isolated personnel.

Their motto "That Others May Live" reaffirms the pararescueman's commitment to saving lives and self-sacrifice. Without PJs, thousands of service members and civilians would have been lost in past conflicts and natural disasters.


Special Tactics pararescuemen are embedded with Special Operations Command assets to provide personnel recovery capability and life-saving medical treatment as expert combat medical professionals in hostile environments. Approximately 40 percent of pararescuemen are in special operations and receive additional special operations training to better support teammates in the U.S. Navy SEALs and U.S. Army Special Forces.

Pararescuemen are among the most highly trained tactical rescue and emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military. They must maintain an Emergency Medical Technician - Paramedic qualification throughout their careers. With this medical and rescue expertise, along with their deployment capabilities, PJs are able to perform life-saving rescue missions in the world's most remote areas. PJs do all this, with the intensity of a special operations mission set.


Pararescuemen provide emergency and life-saving services for the most dangerous missions the U.S. military performs and frequently deploy with U.S. Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces.

They are trained to shoot, move, and communicate alongside other special operations forces, while also saving lives with their rescue techniques and medical expertise. PJs specialize in search and recovery dives, swift water rescue, confined space rescue, high-angle rescue and DNA and classified material gathering.

'That Others May Live’

Pararescue became necessary during World War II, and has since been a constant part of U.S. military heritage and the Air Force mission.

The history of pararescue began in August of 1943, when 21 U.S. military members bailed out of a disabled C-46 over an uncharted jungle near the China-Burma border. The crash site was so remote that the only means of getting help to the survivors was by paradrop. Lt. Col. Don Fleckinger and two medical corpsmen volunteered for the assignment. This paradrop of medical corpsmen was the seed from which the concept of pararescue was born. For a month these men, aided by natives, cared for the injured until the party was brought to safety.

This event made the need for a highly trained rescue force clear, and thus pararescue as we know it was created. Rescues since then have occurred in virtually every corner of the world.

The Air Force awarded nineteen Air Force Crosses to enlisted personnel during the South East Asian conflict; ten of the nineteen were awarded to PJs. PJs provided medical treatment for injured and wounded men picked up from the jungles.

General John P. McConnell, then Air Force Chief of Staff, approved the wearing of the maroon beret. The beret symbolizes the blood sacrificed by fellow pararescuemen and their devotion to duty by aiding others in distress. PJs live up to their motto: "That Others May Live.”

Take the Challenge

Click here for FAQs. If you want more information, please contact the Special Tactics Recruiting, Assessment and Selection section at 24SOW.RAS.org@us.af.mil or 850-884-8094


Pararescuemen endure some of the toughest training offered in the U.S. military. Their training, as well as their unique mission, earns them the right to wear the maroon beret. Some of their unique training includes:

Basic Military Training (BMT), 8 weeks, Lackland Air Force Base, TX- The first step to becoming an Airman happens in BMT where trainees learn military structure, the core values of the U.S. Air Force, and to prepare both mentally and physically for life as an Airman.

Special Warfare Preparatory Course (SW PREP), 8 weeks, Lackland AFB, TX- If they have what it takes to join Air Force Special Warfare, it will be revealed here. Candidates will undergo intense strength and conditioning training by running, rucking and swimming extensively. They'll also learn about the rich history of Special Warfare, Esprit De Corps and ultimately take the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST) to see if they'll move on to tech training.

Special Warfare Assessment and Selection Course, 4 weeks, Lackland AFB, TX- This is the moment candidates must prove they are worthy to advance in PJ training or find another career field.

Special Warfare Pre-Dive Course, 4 weeks, Lackland AFB, TX- Because an emergency can occur in the middle of an ocean, PJs must be expert divers. This course prepares candidates physically and mentally for the rigors of combat dive school. It consists of intense calisthenics, middle- and long-distance running, swimming, and, most importantly, water-confidence training.

Special Warfare Combat Dive Course, 5 weeks, Panama City, FL- Becoming an expert diver happens here. Building upon what they learned during the pre-dive course, PJs undergo extensive combat dive training so they can wield airpower whenever, wherever

Airborne School, 5 weeks, Fort Benning, GA- When an aircraft goes down, it's often in the middle of nowhere, which means PJs must airdrop in to help. During airborne training, they learn basic parachuting and prepare for static line jump operations.

Military Free-Fall Course, 4 weeks, Yuma, AZ; Jamul, CA- In addition to being certified paramedics, PJs are also advanced skydivers. This is where they take that next step by building on the training they received at airborne school.

SERE Training, 3 weeks, Fairchild AFB, WA- Special Warfare Airmen conduct missions in some of the most extreme and hostile places on the planet. This is where they receive survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training that will likely one day save their lives.

Pararescue EMT-B Course, 7 weeks, Kirtland AFB, NM- The primary job of a PJ is to provide medical aid to downed personnel. This is the first step in how to do that by learning basic emergency medical training.

Pararescue EMT-P Course, 30 weeks, Kirtland AFB, NM- After obtaining the fundamentals of emergency medicine, PJ candidates continue onto advanced medical training where they learn additional lifesaving procedures in pressure situations in order to become certified paramedics.

Pararescue Apprentice Course, 22 weeks, Kirtland AFB, NM- PJs are combat medics and rescue specialists who will often find themselves in the middle of a war zone. This is where they learn to apply their training under pressure while obtaining fundamental combat skills utilizing a range of weapons and strategies.