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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.


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:

Indoctrination Course, Lackland AFB, Texas -- This nine-week course recruits, selects and trains future PJs through extensive physical conditioning. Training accomplished at this course includes physiological training, obstacle course, marches, dive physics, dive tables, metric manipulations, medical terminology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, weapons qualifications, PJ history and leadership reaction course.

U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Ga. -- Trainees learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop in a three-week course.

U.S. Air Force Combat Diver School, Panama City, Fla. -- Trainees become combat divers, learning to use scuba and closed-circuit diving equipment to covertly infiltrate denied areas, conduct sub-surface searches and basic recovery operations. The six-week course provides training to depths of 130 feet, stressing development of maximum underwater mobility under various operating conditions.

U.S. Navy Underwater Egress Training, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla. -- This course teaches how to safely escape from an aircraft that has ditched in the water. The one-day instruction includes principles, procedures and techniques necessary to get out of a sinking aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Basic Survival School, Fairchild AFB, Wash. -- This two-and-a half-week course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas. Instruction includes principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.

U.S. Army Military Free Fall Parachutist School, Fort Bragg, N.C., and Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. -- This course instructs trainees in free fall parachuting procedures. The five-week course provides wind tunnel training, in-air instruction focusing on student stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense and parachute opening procedures.

Paramedic Course, Kirtland AFB, N.M. -- This 22-week course teaches how to manage trauma patients prior to evacuation and provide emergency medical treatment. Upon graduation, an EMT-Paramedic certification is awarded through the National Registry.

Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course, Kirtland AFB, N.M. -- Qualifies airmen as pararescue recovery specialists for assignment to any pararescue unit worldwide. The 24-week training includes field medical care and extrication basics, field tactics, mountaineering, combat tactics, advanced parachuting and helicopter insertion/extraction.

Special Tactics Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. -- During this specialize course for PJs going through initial training to special operations, Airmen receive five-level training, including infiltration, exfiltration methods and additional combat training.