Legendary Military Units: US Air Force Pararescue (PJ) - "These Things We Do, That Others May Live"

By Ethan Cole on
 December 15, 2021

With a motto like, "These Things We Do, That Others May Live," it's no surprise that the Air Force Pararescuemen are some of the DOD's elite. The PJs are expertly trained and equipped for rescue operations, no matter how tricky they may be.

The Beginning

August 1943 saw the birth of Pararescue. Near the China-Burma border, 21 people had to bail out from a disabled C-46 in a desolate stretch of jungle.

The only hope of getting them out was para dropping in. Two medical corpsmen and Lieutenant Colonel Don Fleckinger volunteered to retrieve the survivors.

The paratroopers took care of the survivors with the help of natives until they all could be safely taken out of the jungle. One survivor was Eric Severeid, a news commentator, who said of the men, "Gallant is a precious word; they deserve it."

From then on, the Air Force Pararescue was there to assist those in need throughout the world, whether they were fellow airmen, soldiers, or civilians.

Dramatic Rescue

One of the Pararescue team's more notable rescues was the retrieval of the astronauts on Gemini 8. Technical issues terminated the flight. Pararescue and PARA-SCUBA teams from the Far East station were sent to the coordinates where the Gemini was set to fall into the water.

Three Pararescuemen saw the spacecraft hit the water, jumped into the ocean, and attached the floatation equipment in 20 minutes.

The Pararescuemen then waited with astronauts David Scott and Neil Armstrong until the Navy destroyer sent to retrieve them arrived. The partnership between NASA and the Pararescuement continues to this day.

Pararescueman Training & Rescues

Training is not a one and done for the Pararescuemen. They continuously train, trying new operational strategies and keeping up to date on procedures.

Two Russian transport merchant seamen needed help, and the Pararescuemen came to their aid. A sailor was badly burned on a Russian transport. Two Pararescuemen parachuted onto the ship and treated the sailor, saving his life.

Two weeks after, they received another call. This one was a Russian fishing vessel off the coast of Oregon. Three Pararescuemen from Portland treated the sailor for head injuries from a fall.

The Coast Guard picked up the sailer, taking him to a hospital. In 1989, they assisted with trapped and injured motorists following the San Francisco earthquake.

The Pararescuemen are always mission-ready, dropping in to help anyone in need.

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