Pararescue – AF Special Warfare
pararescue flash


The Pararescue Creed

“It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and aid the injured.  I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently.  Placing these duties before personal desires and comforts.  These things I do, That Others May Live” 

What is a PJ?

If Special Operations Command needs a rescue expert for hi-risk missions or the Air Force requires DoD’s only dedicated personnel recovery force to get pilots behind enemy lines, they call on the PJs.  No one in the world can do what the Pararescue can do- that’s why they are called on by name for the world’s most dangerous and technical missions around the globe… That Others May Live.
Skills include:

  • Static Line and Military Freefall Insertion (HALO & HAHO)
  • Helicopter land and water insertion & exfil
  • Swiftwater rescue
  • Snow, Ice & Avalanche rescue
  • Technical Mountain Rescue
  • NASA Contingency Response
  • Domestic / Disaster Response (Earthquake/tsunami/hurricane)
  • Confined Space and Collapse Structure Rescue and Recovery
  • Advanced Weapons Skills and Small Unit Tactics Training
  • National Registered Paramedic and Tactical Combat Casualty Care 
  • Combat Diving and Underwater Search & Recovery

Civil SAR/Non-Combat

A unique aspect of Pararescue is Civil Search & Rescue (Civil SAR), most often performed by the Air National Guard teams.  No other DoD special operator is as involved in civil operations as Pararescue. 
PJ units are aggressive in responding to flooding, hurricane andPJ civil Search and Rescue other natural disasters disasters.  As experts in helicopter operations, swiftwater, mass casualties, technical extrication and medical care, they are a perfect fit as a primary assistance partner for FEMA, USAID and other local led disaster responses.  

When medical emergencies occur far out at sea, and the distance is too great for the Coasties, they call Pararescue.  PJs have continually demonstrated they are able to deliver advanced medical care ANYWHERE on the globe at a moments notice.  

Pararescue water jump

By parachuting from airplanes into the middle of oceans with their medical equipment and rubber rafts, Pararescue can board stricken vessels and aid distressed mariners to save lives when no one else can or will.  PJs have performed blood transfusions, performed cricothyrotomys, prolonged ventilator support and escharotomies in the most austere locations imaginable.

Alaska PJ Mount Denali

The Alaska Air National Guard PJ Team are notably skilled in civil SAR ops.  Averaging one rescue per week in extreme Alaska conditions, the Alaska PJs are known for being some of the best at advanced medical and alpine skills.


Pararescue is rich in history with origins beginning around 1943.  Check out the
PJ History page for info including background papers, Charlie the PJ and the Green Feet Tattoo.

Official Air Force Description and Responsibilities

Performs, plans, leads, supervises, instructs, and evaluates Pararescue activities. Performs as the essential surface-to-air link in Personnel Recovery (PR) and materiel recovery by functioning as the technical rescue and recovery specialist on surface elements or as mission crew on flying status. Provides rapid response capability, special operations mission execution, and application of airpower across the full spectrum of military operations in all geographic and environmental conditions.

  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts Personnel Recovery (PR). Recovers priority aerospace personnel and material. Provides assistance in and performs survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE).
  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts technical rescue. Employs specialized equipment and Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) to access and recover personnel and/or equipment from avalanche, alpine, confined space/structural collapse, high angle, swiftwater and underwater environments.
  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts emergency medical care. Employs specialized equipment and KSAs to assess, diagnose, treat, stabilize and transport patients with minor to immediate life threatening illnesses and/or injuries.
  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts support to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in recovery of aerospace personnel and materiel. Guides recovery of priority NASA space materiel.
  • Performs tactical mission planning and preparation. Understands special operations tactics, techniques and procedures. Studies operation mission requirements. Rehearses mission plan, makes reconnaissance, conducts briefs, and loads and configures employment vehicles/aircraft.
  • Deploys into permissive, hostile, denied, or politically and/or diplomatically sensitive environments, and forward operating locations by land (mounted, special purpose vehicle or dismounted), sea (surface or subsurface naval vessel, small watercraft, self- contained underwater breathing apparatus [SCUBA], or surface swim) or air (parachute, airmobile, air-land) to participate in the full spectrum of military operations to include air expeditionary force, force projection, direct action (DA), counterinsurgency (COIN), counter narcotic (CN), counterterrorism (CT), countering weapons of mass destruction (CWMD), foreign internal defense (FID), unconventional warfare (UW), security force assistance, humanitarian assistance, hostage rescue and recovery, personnel recovery (PR), noncombatant evacuation operations (NEO) and advanced force operations (AFO). Provides ground-to-air interface, keeping aircraft and monitoring authorities apprised of the status and requirements of the patient and mission.
  • Performs, supervises, and evaluates overt, low visibility, or clandestine movement, search, contact, and on-scene authentication in permissive, hostile, denied, or politically and/or diplomatically land and water areas. Conducts discrete surface-to-air and surface electronic and visual communications and signaling activities. Maintains qualification on assigned primary, foreign, and crew served weaponry. Directs emergency close air support (ECAS). Provides reception for resupply operations

The Pararescue Training Pipeline

Duty Locations

Active Duty

  • Pope AFB, (Fayetteville) NC (21st Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma) WA (22nd Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Hurlburt Field, (Ft. Walton Beach) FL (23rd Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Pope AFB, (Fayetteville) NC (724th Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Cannon AFB, (Clovis) NM (26th Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, JP (320th Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Mildenhall AB, England (321st Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, JP (31st Rescue Squadron)
  • Aviano Air Base, Italy (57th Rescue Squadron)
  • Moody AFB, (Valdosta) GA (38th Rescue Squadron)
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, (Tucson) AZ (48th Rescue Squadron)
  • Nellis AFB (Las Vegas) NV (58th Rescue Squadron)

Air National Guard

  • Louisville Intl Airport KY (123rd Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Portland Intl Airport OR (125th Special Tactics Squadron)
  • Elmendorf AFB, (Anchorage) AK (212th Rescue Squadron)
  • Gabreski Air Field, (Long Island) NY (103rd Rescue Squadron)
  • Moffett Field, (Santa Clara) CA (131st Rescue Squadron)

Air Force Reserves

  • Portland Intl Airport OR (304th Rescue Squadron)
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, (Tucson) AZ (306th Rescue Squadron)
  • Patrick AFB, (Cocoa Beach) FL (308th Rescue Squadron)

Check out the Active Duty vs Reserve Component page for more in-depth information on the differences between active duty and the reserve component and the different types of squadrons.

Pararescue Ops Videos


For more information on Pararescue, check out the AFSPECWAR Forums

Want to sign up for Pararescue? Find out how HERE