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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2014

Guard Pararescuemen Train to be Prepared in Any Situation

By Airman 1st Class Tammie Ramsouer JBER Public Affairs

In a quiet valley, an armored vehicle is upside down with a group of Soldiers inside. Suddenly a helicopter filled with pararescuemen flies in from over the horizon. The helicopter lands and the PJ's get to work making sure the landing zone is safe and clear to fulfill their mission: stabilize and evacuate the injured Soldiers as soon as possible.

The 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, trains and prepares their 40 full-time team members and eight combat rescue officers to be ready for anything they may face in the line of duty including medical evacuations here in Alaska.

"Here on JBER, we are responsible for maintaining a full-time alert for the fighters that are constantly training both here and at Eielson [Air Force Base]," said Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kyle Minshew, 212th RQS director of training. "We always have two 12-hour shifts for the fighter period and for the state of Alaska. There is always a possibility we could get tasked to help out with performing a rescue, recovery or a medical evacuation mission for the state or base."

Their training illustrates how much work it really takes to be a pararecueman.

"If any male individuals want to be a pararecueman, all they would have to do is go to a recruiter and do a Physical Ability Stamina test. It is a base line physical test to measure if an individual has the baseline physical requrements, but currently this career field is only for male individuals," Minshew said.

The test is a mile and a half run, 500 meter swim, pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. For the team members here in Alaska, they have the opportunity to hold try-outs and have interviews to fill a position in the 212th RQS before they send a qualified individual to the pararescue course.

If pararescue prospects pass the PAS test then they will go on to basic training followed by the pararescue course.

"From basic training, we send these individuals straight to Combat Diver School, and from there we send them to Survival School with underwater egress, Airborne School, Free Fall school, paramedic classes-which is are a requirement for all pararescumen-and finally finishing with the actual Pararescue School, which is six months long," Minshew said. "At the Pararescue School, they will take all the skills they learned from the pipeline and the mental aspects that they have gained and being pushed into how to become a pararescueman."

Not only do the 212th RQS want to recruit someone they can count on for many years, but someone they can trust to always be physically fit.

"When I first learned about the career field, I didn't fully realize exactly how much PJ's do and how it is a career-long endeavor to be a well-rounded and solid operator," said California Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Caleb Kiley, 131st Rescue Squadron pararescueman.

Other requirements include passing flight physicals and meeting certain height requirements. The main training pararescue and paramedic schools are located in Albuquerque, N.M.

"If everything goes smoothly, the pararescue training, we call it 'the pipeline', can be done in two years," Minshew said. "Typically-with delays in training and courses-there is a chance individuals will get set back in another class; it will take them about two and a half years."

During the training, both in the schooling and on-the-job-training pararescumen must go through one of the most important parts of their job, which is jumping out of a HC-130 King.

"Jumping is one of the more dangerous capabilities that we offer, and I feel it is very important that we are proficient, so we can execute a jump mission as safely as possible," Kiley said. "In addition to maintaining our proficiencies, jumping allows us to work with the aircrew assets that we will utilize for real-world missions."

For Kiley, the opportunity to become a pararescueman was a way for him to experience something new and exciting.

"I wanted to become a PJ because of the search-and-rescue capabilities in both combat and civilian environments." Kiley said. "Being a pararescueman is exciting, challenging and incredibly rewarding. In addition to being able to rescue people in need, we have a brotherhood that takes care of each other to include our families, whether we are on a temporary duty, deployment or at our home station."

The majority of the pararescue career field is active duty, but there are some Guard and Reserve units in the U.S. All of the PJ's here in Alaska are with the Air National Guard.

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