That others may live

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sheila deVera
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Normally, when people hear about members of the 31st Rescue Squadron, they think of them as super heroes who act on a moment's notice, jumping out of aircraft in a blaze of gunfire to save a downed pilot.

Combat search and rescue is more than what people see in the movies -- pararescuemen (PJs) perform combat land and water recovery operations. PJs also rescue prisoners of war regardless of what the environment or threat conditions might be.

The 31st RQS mission is to provide search and rescue coverage for all flying operations. They work closely with the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

"When called upon, the 31st RQS uses pararescue jumpers, survival evasion resistance and escape specialists (SERE), and combat rescue officers (CROs) who work together to report, locate, support, recover and reintegrate isolated military members," Maj. Andrew Reisenweber, 31st RQS director of operations, said. "The most unique part about the squadron at Kadena compared to other overseas bases is that they are the only combat rescue squadron/SERE operating outside the continental United States."

Senior Airman Jonathan Courtright, a two-year PJ, said, "I've been on a few missions since joining the 31st RQS. One mission was an F-15 that crashed off the coast of Okinawa and I recently responded to the mudslides in the Philippines."

Pararescuemen specialize in survivor contact, treatment and extraction while SERE specialists provide initial and refresher training to ensure PJs can return from various engagements.

All pararescuemen selected must go to eight different schools to learn everything they can within a 17-month period.
The Pararescue/Combat Control Indoctrination Course located at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is a two-month training course consisting of endurance training such as running and swimming to eliminate those unprepared for the rigors of the job.

The Airborne School, located at Fort Benning, Ga., is a three-week course, where students learn basic parachuting skills such as "mass exit" techniques. They are required to jump using a static line parachute. After graduating, students earn their "jump" wings.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Underwater School, located in Key West, Fla., is four weeks of intense surface and subsurface swims using a compass and attack boards. Upon completing their training, students earn their "bubble" badges and are certified as combat divers.

Other schools include: the U.S. Navy Underwater Egress Training, U.S. Air Force Survival School, U.S. Army Military Freefall Parachutist School, Special Operations Combat Medic Course, and the 20-week Pararescue School located at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.
"The hardest part of our job is finding enough time and resources to keep our PJs, SERE and CROs trained and proficient in the wide variety of skills they need to do their jobs," Major Reisenweber said.

However, he said the most rewarding part about being a pararescuemen is saving lives. All the hard work that goes on at the unit is dedicated to that.