The Pararescuemen of the United States Air Force, one of the top US special forces, were first activated in March of 1946. They are involved in recovery and medical treatment of personnel in not only combat, but also humanitarian environments. They are the only personnel recovery operations unit of the US Department of Defense who are specially trained to perform the task of recovering personnel in both hostile and denied areas. This special USAF unit is also supports NASA missions with recovering their astronauts after they’ve landed in the water.
Some nicknames for the Pararescuemen include PJ (pararescue jumpers), Maroon Berets (the hats worn) and also the Rescue Rangers. Their maroon berets represent not only their status, but represent the blood shed by past rangers and the willingness to continue to shed blood to save lives – hence their motto, “That Others May Live”.
The two year physically and mentally intense training program for the Pararescuemen is also known as “the Pipline” and/or “Superman School”. It is not uncommon for a graduating class to have only 4 – 6 of the original 100 + men. Almost consistently, 90% of those who begin the program drop out before completion - the highest rate among all the US Special Operations units.
Each Pararescue trainee is required to complete a number of courses including an Indoctrination Course, followed by a significant number of additional courses which include the Combat Dive School, Military Free-Fall Parachutist program and the National Registry for Paramedic Survival. The intense program does not stop there. “The Pipeline” also requires the completion of the Pararescue Apprentice Course, a course that incorporates all prior skills learned and adding new ones as well. Once finished, they are appointed to either a Rescue team or Special Tactics team for informal on the job training. Those assigned to the Special Tactics team obtain additional training in what is known as Advanced Skills.
The special operations Pararescuemen of the United States Air Force have been actively involved in all major conflicts beginning with World War II.