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United States Air Force Pararescue (PJ)



USAF Pararescue Jumbers (PJs) in action

In a case of emergency, where seconds matters, these guys are ready to jump in. Pararescuemen from the USAF Pararescue jumpers are often like the light at the end of the tunnel. Just about anything can happen during a mission and standard ex-filtration (EXFIL) isn’t always an option, if a regular operation has gone south, US Air Force Pararescuemen are the specialists you’ll want to call when recovery and medical treatment are needed immediately. Their is to search for downed aircraft crews, their treatment and evacuation from the combat environment. Of the 22 enlisted Air Force Cross recipients, 12 of them are PJs. With a track record of excellence and selflessness, they certainly live up to their creed –

“It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save lives and to 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.”

History of the US Air Force Pararescue Teams

The history of USAF PJs or Pararescuemen goes back to before their official inception. The need for medical services dates from ancient ages but the medical services to be supplied by aerial vehicles was predicted as early as 1922, but the idea didn’t invent into conventional practice until World War II and wider usage of aerial vehicles.

USAF Pararescue team history began in August 1943, when 21 people left their damaged aircraft C-46 remained in the uncharted jungle near the Sino-Burmese border. Accident site was so remote that the only way to deliver aid to survivors, was dropping it with parachute.  Colonel Don Fleckinger volunteered for the task along with two paramedics. And this was airborne assault troops, medical seed from which further developed the concept of Pararescue team. For months, these men cared for the wounded before they got transported to safety. One of those who lived through it tough period, was a newspaper commentator Eric Sevareid. Later, about men who risked their own lives to rescue him, wrote: “Courage is a rare word, they deserve it.”

This event highlighted the need for specially trained paramedics, which brought to life Pararescuemen.From then on, their work was evident throughout the world. When they got to the flight crew, soldiers or civilians in trouble, Parazáchranáři came to help.

One of the most inspiring stories come from the conflict in Southeast Asia. Pararescuemen risked their lives when they flew over enemy territory to help their own forces. Daily voluntarily set off into the jungles of Vietnam to rescue wounded soldiers and downed pilots. 19 Air Force Crosses awarded to people in the service during the conflict in Southeast Asia, nine of these crosses fell Pararescuemen.

Characteristic resolution of Pararescuemen fell at the beginning of 1966. General John P. McConnell, then Air Force Chief of Staff, approved the wearing dark red berets whose color symbolizes the blood of sacrificial rescuers and their dedication to their mission to help others in need. The motto “that others may live” is a reality of their daily lives.

Official training Pararescuemen is infinite improvement. Continually improve procedures and looking better and better methods. Significant step forward for Pararescue occurred when in matching jump and diving equipment. When you jump on carries Pararescuemen equipped to dive to 170 pounds of weight.

One of the dramatic events occurred during the Pararescue diving event at the end of Gemini 8 space flight, in which sat astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and David R. Scott. Due to problems reported by PJs prepared for the expected location of the Marine landing. They were in place in time, thus saw a spaceship crash into the sea. Three Pararescuemen parachuted behind them and prepared within 20 minutes flotation equipment. Rescuers stayed with the astronauts until the arrival of a Navy destroyer three hours later.

Pararescuemen provide ongoing support NASA missions and provide support to their rescue space program. The performance of these tasks regularly train.

The key task is to save lives Pararescuemen and their work forms an important part of the rescue system.For example, during the two weeks were twice called to help a Russian merchant ships in two different areas. In the first case, a severely burned sailor Russian transport ship in the Atlantic 700 miles from the coast. Two Parazáchranáři from the Azores to let air transport over the place where the parachutes landed next to the boat. Then take care of the severely injured to the point where the ship reached port a few days later. Two weeks later, there was another distress call from another Russian craft – fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon coast. A team of three from Portland Parazáchranářů jumped into the ocean. The ship then treated fishermen from serious back and head injuries from falling. When the ship is sufficiently close to the coast, the vessel Coast Guard sailor picked up and taken to a hospital.

In 1989, to assist in debugging and treatment motorists on California highway destroyed by the earthquake. PJs were the only ones who voluntarily crawled between the plates ruined highway to get to the victim. In this personal dedication have earned awards from President Bush.

When employed in Panama in 1989 Pararescuemen were among the first American fighters who parachuted during Operation Just Cause . Due to the intensity of combat operations found their medical skills and strong recovery. With its formulated rovers RATT-V took care of the majority of U.S. casualties in the two airports under Panamanian control, which were obtained in the initial phase of the invasion.

In Operation Desert Storm had Pararescuemen task of ensuring the downed aircraft crew and wounded soldiers. This action to “liberate” Kuwait again demonstrated the usefulness Parazáchranářů. One of their missions was the navigator rescue downed F-14 in a very dangerous environment, where they clashed off the rescued soldier with enemy forces. Pararescue also provided humanitarian assistance to Kurdish refugees fleeing northern Iraq.

In Somalia, were involved in the operation to capture Somali leader Mohammed Aidid. Together with Army Rangers had PJs authority to the role of helicopters Search and Rescue . At the initial strike two helicopters were shot down, PJs, therefore, went to the assistance and protection of survivors. As the helicopter crashed into the zone heaviest fighting, PJs and Rangers were seeded directly into the firefight, transported wounded from the imminent danger and provide them with medical treatment. Due to this they managed directly during surgery to save many lives.

In Afghanistan, one of the known events such as those for which there were two PJs Award, one of them posthumously. After a fierce firefight, they managed to rescue 10 U.S. soldiers. During this combat, search and rescue missions were either killed PJ, before that his colleague could stabilize the wounded and under fire for them to pinpoint the location of pickup.

Training of the USAF Pararescue

Once in the USAF PJ Candidate Course, you will be challenged physically for ten weeks on their training compound in Lackland AFB, Texas.  The first phase is known as Team Training and is 8 weeks long.  It consists of extensive physical training with swimming, running, weight training, calisthenics and obstacle courses and other appropriate training.  Educational training such as medical and diving terminology, CPR, weapons qualifications, and dive physics are also part of the first phase on Candidate Course.

Minimal requirements to became USAF Pararescue or USAF Combat Control tech

To become a USAF PJ or USAF Combat Control tech you need to meet minimum requirements. Here are the specifics minimums and the recommended scores in the parenthesis:

  • 2 x 25 m subsurface swim no time limit
  • 500 m swim 10:07 or less (sub 9 min)
  • 30 min rest
  • 1.5 mile run 9:47 or less (sub 9 min)
  • 10 min rest
  • 10 pull ups min (20+)
  • 2 min rest
  • 58 sit ups min (100+)
  • 2 min rest
  • 54 push ups min (100+)

If you want to compare how it looks against modern sports here are the standards for IRON MAN:

  • 2 x 25 m subsurface
  • 500 m swim 9:30
  • 1.5 mile run 9:30
  • 13 pull ups
  • 65 sit ups
  • 65 push ups


Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces



IMG 1662 3 - Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces

In Portuguese, it is called Centro de Tropas de Operações Especiais (CTOE), and you can translate it to Special Operations Forces Center, they are the Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) and are part of the Army Rapid Reaction Brigade. They are based in Lamego, a city in the North of Portugal surround by mountains and very close to the Douro River. The very cold environment in the winter mixed very hot in the summer, the mountain terrain together with the harsh training the men receive is a great recipe to create very tuff Men.

Organized in Special Operations Platoons and Task Units (TU), but together with support and logistics, they have a Battalion size unit. The CTOE is composed of a specially selected man, which are organized, trained, equipped and use techniques, tactics and procedures that are nonstandard to regular forces. They are able to conduct activities in all spectrum of warfare, independently or integrated with other regular or irregular forces in a way to achieve victory. In case of Political need they are also able to conduct descript or even covert operations. Special Operations can be conducted directly against an enemy, or indirectly by training and supporting local foreign military or even create militia from populations.

Portuguese SOF TU can be infiltrated by air, land or water and coordination with Air, Land and Naval Firepower support is common in any Joint Operations Area as it augments Special Operations capacities.

The regular TASK UNIT is composed of Commander (Captain), Operations and Intelligence Officer (Lieutenant), Operations and Intelligence Sargent, Team and Logistics Master Sargent, one support section, one maintenance section, one medical section, one communications section and a Platoon of Special Operations soldiers. Sometimes, if needed, it can be augmented with Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) personnel.

Portuguese SOF missions include:

  • Perform studies and experiments with new tactics and gear,
  • Organize, train and maintain Special Operations Forces,
  • Organize, train and mentor irregular/civilian forces,
  • Organize and perform Subversive Warfare in case of homeland invasion by foreign forces,
  • Unconventional warfare,
  • Counter-Terrorism,
  • Psychological warfare
  • Direct and indirect actions,
  • Raids and Sabotage against high-value targets,
  • Long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP),
  • Locating enemy command and control centers,
  • Targeting and destruction of enemy air defenses and radar systems,
  • Hostages, POW and other personnel rescue operations,
  • Many other that it´s commander find suitable.

Portuguese Army SOF has been deployed worldwide. Some of the known countries are Angola, Mozambique, Guinee-Bissau, Iraq, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, East-Timor, Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic. They have been a part of NATO Immediate Reaction Forces since its creation.

Working in other countries for long time period missions demands that the unit acquires knowledge of the local language and cultural costumes. English and French are common languages taught to the unit. Portugal has a long military tradition in Africa so this is one area of operations where the unit feels very comfortable

Some of the foreign qualifications that the Officers and Non-Commission Officers take are:

  • Forward Air Controller (FAC) in Germany
  • Sniper in the United Kingdom,
  • Special Forces in the United States,
  • Airborne in the United States,
  • Ranger in the United States,
  • Special Operations Military Free-Fall in the United States,
  • Jungle warfare in Brazil,
  • Artic Warfare in Norway,
  • Enemy vehicles recognition in Germany,
  • Long range reconnaissance patrol in Germany

Portuguese Army SOF has been modernizing itself for the last years. Especially in what concerns the individual soldier equipment. New weaponry like assault rifles, silencers, light and medium machine guns, Trijicon and Schmidt & Bender scopes, AN PEQ-16B laser/illuminator modules, AN PVS-21 night vision goggles, but also protection equipment like the Ops core Helmets, Warrior assault systems Tactical Vests and some day by day items like the mystery ranch backpacks, Harris Radios and Peltor Headsets.

Portuguese Army SOF is a modern force with experience in many theatres. With participation in United Nations, European Union and NATO operations, it is a strong asset to these Organizations and its partners.

Their motto is: “Que os muitos por sermos poucos não temamos” – Don´t fear the many just because we are few.

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German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos



kommando spezialkrafte marine - German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos

The elite detachment of combat divers, Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) is a special unit of commandos of the German Navy that may serve as Berlin’s response the US Navy SEALs. Against the background of the current situation in the world (cold wars, sea piracy, etc.), KSM acts as an important tool of Germany’s foreign policy. KSM was established for special operations under the water.

Special forces in the naval forces of Germany appeared relatively recently. First-ever German military divers were trained in France in 1959. The task of the German battalion “Specialized operational marine forces” (Spezialisierten Einsatzkräften der Marine) included special operations on land and under the water. From 2003 to 2014, the battalion was one of the most sought-after units of the German army.

Special operations were conducted in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Lebanon, Kosovo and Somalia. In the process of the recent reorganization of the German Navy, the battalion was divided into several groups. In April 2014, a fundamentally new military organization was created – special forces of commando divers – Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine, or KSM.

The Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine is based in the German city of Eckernförd, where the entire fleet of German submarines is deployed. “The new military structure has a narrow specialization, this allows us to better perform the tasks set. Guys do their work professionally, and it is the most important thing for me,” the commander of KSM, Jorg Buddenbaum, said.

ksm kommando - German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos

KSM operators during the training (Photo: FILE)

The tasks of Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (KSM) special forces include reconnaissance and sabotage activities on the water, under the water, and in the coastal zone. Missions can also be life-saving, peacekeeping, aimed at protecting and ensuring security of any objects (ships, oil and gas offshore platforms). The work of the unit is often conducted under the aegis of NATO or the UN.

Each mission usually involves four or five military divers – a commander, a sniper, a medic, a radio operator and an observer. Their diving equipment includes German rebreather Dräger LAR-V, dry and wet suits from 5 to 7 mm, fins and masks, navigation gadgets, knives, underwater watch and underwater pistol P11 Heckler&Koch (silently fires steel arrows). KSM divers use submarine scooters to move underwater, while air cushions, speedboats, kayaks, etc. are used on the water surface.

The German Armed Forces do not disclose any information on the number of KSM soldiers. According to various reports, it goes about 130 men (only men can serve in KSM).

ksm germany - German alternative to US Navy SEALs: Special forces of underwater commandos

Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine (Photo: FILE)

KSM candidates have to undergo an exceptionally intense 3-year training course. In the process of training, candidates master the knowledge and skills necessary for naval commandos: diving, parachute jumping, rock climbing, counter-terrorism training, boat and ship navigation. As a rule, only 30 percent of candidates join the rank of KSM servicemen. To date, KSM is considered one of the most highly trained special units of the German army.

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