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How to Become an Air Force PJ

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Air Force Pararescue personnel, also referred to as PJs, perform special operations. These include combat search and rescue missions that require special skills, such as scuba diving, skydiving and rock climbing. The Air Force only recruits men for their pararescue teams.

Air Force Basic Training

The first step to becoming a PJ is to undergo eight-and-a-half weeks of military training. This training begins with orientation, Air Force command structure, dorm and drill procedures, armed conflict law and weapons basics. During the second week of training, recruits learn tactical fighting skills such as movement, positioning, reporting and weapons use. Weeks three through five teach potential PJs first-aid while under fire, leadership values and awareness skills, and refined weapons skills. The last three weeks of this regimen feature evaluations, psychological instruction, survival training and Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, or BEAST, which is a five-day training exercise that immerses trainees in a simulation that mimics the sounds, sights and emotions of combat deployment.

Fitness Preparation

The Air Force outlines a 26-week physical training regimen that prepares candidates for the physical demands of the PJ specialization program. Phase One of the program lasts 11 weeks, while the second phase is 15 weeks long. From Monday to Saturday, personnel develop physical strength, cardiovascular endurance and long distance swimming abilities, with Sunday serving as a day of rest. To help prevent injury, consult with a physician before commencing the program and complete the weekly progression as planned.

Underwater and Airborne Training

After completing basic training and finishing the fitness preparation program recommended by the Air Force, prospective Air Force PJs spend slightly more than half a year learning skills that let them reach those in need of rescue. Eleven weeks of pararescue development and indoctrination courses begin at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, followed by Air Force combat diver school in Panama City, Florida, which takes five and a half weeks. A day of underwater egress training occurs at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington, leading to Army airborne school at Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia. Water and airborne training finishes with three weeks of Air Force basic survival school at Fairchild, ending with four weeks of Army military free fall parachutist school at North Carolina's Fort Bragg.

Paramedic Training

Air Force PJs finish their training at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico with a 22-week paramedic course followed by a 24-week pararescue recovery specialist course. Paramedic courses teach PJs the most advanced level of emergency medical treatment, involving diagnosis and treatment that stabilizes patients for transport back to friendly health care facilities.


Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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