By Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon, 3rd Combat Camera Squadron
/ Published October 28, 2011
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Service before self is an Air Force core value each Airman is expected to embody. For one particular group of Airmen, it's central to their way of life.
The pararescueman code states: "It is my duty as a pararescueman to save life 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."
"It is crucial for each of our trainees to embrace the core value of service before self," said Lt. Col. Jerry Kung, 342nd Training Squadron commander. "That core value is the basis for the lessons in teamwork and expectations of self-sacrifice that we work to instill in the students."
Air Force pararescuemen, an elite corps of Airmen, are responsible for combat search and rescue missions. They provide life-saving services to Airmen, the joint-service team and civilians in all types of environments.
"Our job is extremely demanding due to the challenging mission profiles we execute in all environments and in extreme conditions," said Senior Master Sgt. Douglas Isaacks, 342nd Training Squadron Indoctrination Course commandant. "We can't let fatigue, stress, pain or injuries get in the way of making sure we do our job right to save a person's life."
Airmen must complete 80-weeks of training before receiving the title, Air Force Pararescueman.
At Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the Gateway to the Air Force, pararescuemen endure extreme physical conditioning and mental preparation during a 9-week indoctrination course. The program includes physiological training, obstacle course events, marches, dive physics, dive tables, metric manipulations, medical terminology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, weapons qualifications, history lessons as well as leadership reaction course challenges.
In addition to the 9-week course, trainees attend preparation courses to include: Air Force Combat Dive Course, Army Airborne School, Air Force Survival School, military freefall training, paramedic training and certification and the apprentice course.
This two-year training program is referred to as "the pipeline."
"Our goal is to indoctrinate the pararescue graduates to be accountable leaders, responsible Airmen, reliable operators, and resilient professionals in the training pipeline and throughout their careers," Isaacks said.
At every stage of the training pipeline, Airmen are challenged to their limits mentally and physically for the honor to wear the maroon beret and be called an Air Force pararescueman.
"It's a tough course" said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Cervantes, 342nd Training Squadron pararescue instructor. "It takes a resilient mind-set, reminding yourself why you are there every day."
Cervantes chose to go through pararescue training because he wanted to make a difference, to be a part of something special. He clung to his reasons for wanting to be a pararescueman when he went through the pipeline years before. He remembers the reverence he had for the instructors and their stories of saving lives.
"The training here and in the pipeline establishes a foundation. It gives you the opportunity to communicate effectively and operate well amongst your teammates," Cervantes said. "Having that training builds mental toughness, the edge needed to be able to overcome those long days, strenuous hours and multiple missions."
After receiving his beret, Cervantes deployed to Iraq where his first mission was to recover Army aircrew members.
"While on deployments, everything is generated around the effort of the team," Cervantes said. "Your mind has to push aside all the chaos and focus on the task at hand. It's the essence in putting others before yourself."
Cours instructors said they find resilience and the Air Force core values are the best indicators of those who find success and graduate.
The Air Force core values serve as the foundation for success. The mission moves fast and no one has time to second guess one's commitment to the team or integrity, Kung said.
"The key to developing resiliency is equipping Airmen to persevere, control emotions and bounce back from difficult and stressful situations," Kung said. "Whether you're doing physical training or you're being a good wingman, you're proving to yourself that your teammates can count on you to be there, do the right thing, do it right, and never quit."