First Pararescue apprentice course graduation open to family and friends since January 2020

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Xiaofan Liu
  • Special Warfare Training Wing

The 351st Special Warfare Training Squadron hosts the first Pararescue apprentice course graduation open to family and friends since January 2020 on Aug. 12, 2021, at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

With the onslaught of COVID-19 for much of 2020, the 351st Special Warfare Training Squadron incorporated strict COVID-19 safety protocols for all events, including hosting graduation ceremonies without inviting family and friends. 

Graduating class 21-2, consisted of 21 enlisted Pararescue specialists (PJ) and Combat Rescue Officers, two of the Air Force’s highest-demand, lowest-density career fields. CROs comprise the officer corps of the PJ career field and are charged with leading teams of Pararescue specialists and other Special Warfare operators in support of personnel recovery missions, ranging from hostile engagements to humanitarian aid.

“This graduation represents the culmination of two to three years of incredibly hard work for the graduates, almost always the most difficult achievement of their lives,” said Lt. Col. Peter Dyrud, 351st SWTS commander. “It also represents a time when experienced PJs and CROs from across the Special Warfare community come together and welcome the graduates who are heading to their squadrons.”

Enlisted Pararescue Airmen are among the most highly trained tactical rescue and emergency trauma specialists in the U.S. military. They must maintain an Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic qualification throughout their careers. With this medical and rescue expertise, along with their deployment capabilities, Pararescuemen are able to perform life-saving rescue missions in the world’s most remote areas.

The course curriculum for PJs is broken down into seven phases: tactical medicine, technical rescue, weapons, SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape], tactics, air operations, and final evaluation phase. While PJs are working on tactical medicine, CROs receive training on tactical leadership, mission planning, and air integration.

“The Pararescue Apprentice Course takes trainees who are fully qualified paramedics from being comfortable working in an ambulance to working comfortably from a backpack,” said Tech. Sgt. Ty Hatcher, 351st SWTS director of training. “They also learn how to safely raise and lower an individual on a two-rope system”.

PJ trainees are trained to shoot, move, and communicate alongside other special operations forces, while also saving lives with their rescue techniques and medical expertise. Simultaneously, they specialize in search and recovery dives, swift water rescue, confined space rescue, high-angle rescue and DNA and classified material gathering.

“With the exception of those still awaiting military freefall training due to COVID-related constraints, the 21 graduates will now out-process and PCS to their gaining units,” said Lt. Col. Dyrud. “From there, they will focus on becoming fully qualified to perform their unit’s mission, including contingency deployments, civil search and rescue, humanitarian relief operations, and support to NASA”.

Members of the Special Warfare Training Wing provide initial training for all U.S. Air Force Special Warfare training AFSCs, to include, Combat Controllers, Pararescue, Special Reconnaissance, and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen.

To learn more about Pararescue Airmen or other U.S. Air Force Special Warfare career opportunities, go to: