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Army Rangers vs. Air Force Pararescue

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The U.S. Army Rangers and the Air Force Pararescue team are both elite military units. They can both trace their modern roots to World War II, although units bearing the name of "Rangers" operated as far back as the French and Indian War in the mid-1700s. Despite differences in their primary missions, both units are highly selective, and acceptance is very competitive.

Army Rangers

All Army Rangers are members of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which consists of four battalions. Rangers are an elite light infantry force, specializing in actions behind enemy lines. Actions include seizing airfields, raids, intelligence gathering, reconnaissance and recovering personnel. Only active-duty soldiers can volunteer for the Rangers, and they must be U.S. citizens, able to earn at least "secret" clearance and have no physical limitations. They must have scored at least 105 on the general technical section of the pre-enlistment Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Test. They must first complete basic training and advanced individual training. Volunteers must achieve a score of at least 240 in physical training. Their military occupational specialty must be one found within the Rangers, an extensive list ranging from infantryman to food service operations. Volunteers must successfully complete airborne training.

Air Force Pararescue Team

The seeds for the Air Force pararescue team were sown in 1943, when a small group of men, including paramedics, volunteered to deliver aid to 21 survivors of a plane crash deep in the Asian jungle. The mission proved the need for paramedics who could parachute in to an area, provide medical treatment and help convey personnel to safety, even through enemy lines. Today's pararescue teams are trained in emergency medicine, combat, survival and escape and evasion. Their primary mission is to save lives, which typically involves locating downed aircraft and rescuing survivors. Training can take as long as two years after completing basic training. To qualify, candidates must be U.S. citizens, score at least a 43 on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test section of the ASVAB, be a strong swimmer, able to obtain a "secret" clearance and be in good physical condition.

Differences Between the Two Units

The primary difference between the two units lies in their missions. The Rangers focus more on infiltration and assault, although personnel recovery is also part of the mission at times. Pararescue teams focus more on personnel recovery and rescue, although they are trained in combat and survival as well. Pararescue teams typically do not conduct intelligence-gathering operations or reconnaissance. Rangers receive less medical training, normally just emergency first aid and combat lifesaving procedures.

Similarities Between the Two Units

Both the Army Rangers and the Air Force Pararescue team are elite special-operations units that are highly selective. Volunteers for either unit must be in peak physical condition, and training involves extensive physical training. Both units are posted for quick response to an emergency, regardless of the time or weather. Basic pay is the same for personnel of the same rank and years of service. As of 2016, units now accept female candidates.

Read more about the first female ranger to graduate from Ranger School


Jeffrey Joyner has had numerous articles published on the Internet covering a wide range of topics. He studied electrical engineering after a tour of duty in the military, then became a freelance computer programmer for several years before settling on a career as a writer.

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