David L. Robbins interviews Air Force Pararescuemen, the inspiration for his
new thriller, The Devil’s Waters.
L. Robbins: Describe the mission of a USAF Guardian Angel (GA) pararescue team.
Lt. Col. John McElroy, USAF Combat Rescue Officer:
GA teams deploy all over the world to provide combat rescue and recovery force.
We’re trained and equipped to operate in
any environment, day or night, hostile or civil, extreme cold to tropical,
swift water to mountain, confined space to open ocean. Bottom line, GA
teams are ready and willing to rescue or recover US military personnel, civilians,
Coalition partners, or anyone else the President of United States deems
appropriate, anywhere, anytime.
It's said that the parajumpers (PJs) are among the most highly trained of all Special Forces
in the U.S. military. True?
Mst. Sgt. Jules Roy, USAF
Pararescueman: There’s a lot of mutual admiration among all Special Operators.
We view each other like the spokes of a wagon wheel, every one of us supports
the center. Like SEALs and ODAs, GA forces get some of the most elite combat training
that DoD has to offer. But in addition to that, every PJ is a national
registered paramedic, with combat medical skills surpassing any others in the U.S.
military. It’s this combination that sets Guardian Angels apart from our Army,
USMC, and Navy Special Ops brothers.
Why don’t you see more PJs in the media? Why are you Combat Search and Rescue
guys so quiet?
All Special Forces organizations are looking for the same guy. The
one who, no matter what obstacle is in front of him, is going to hit it with
100 percent effort. Then hit the next obstacle the same way, over and
again. There’s no misconception about what amazing things the thousands of
SEALs and ODAs do, but we’ve only got a couple hundred pararescuemen. It’s hard
to get the word out with such a small group. Though most people don't
think about us when they think Special Ops ground forces, ask any pilot, air
crew, wounded or isolated soldier or civilian we’ve rescued what a PJ is. He’ll
Explain the different responsibilities between a PJ and a Combat Rescue Officer (CRO). Tell me how a GA team
works in the field.
Each recovery team consists of a number of PJs and a CRO
commander. The CRO is the
officer in charge of the ground element, working with other leadership on the
scene or with air assets supporting the operation. He’ll make big picture
decisions on movement and employment. His PJ team leader, usually the senior
ranking PJ, directs the collection or medical treatment for the casualty or
What does the motto "That Others May Live" mean to you?
Since my training began, I focused on this motto. Every push-up I
did or mile I ran, I thought this mile or this push-up could be the one that
makes me strong enough or fast enough to help someone some day. This
simple motto focuses our entire squadron, and has even become a philosophy that
our families must adopt to get through long days, multiple deployments, temporary duties.
Everyone involved with pararescue has to understand the importance of
To be honest, I joined the PJs for the mountaineering, skydiving, all the
different challenges. Then, on my first rescue, I realized that it was my hands
keeping this one guy alive. If I stopped, he died. Right then, those words,
That Others May Live, became an epiphany and all the other stuff, even my own
safety, stopped mattering. Every PJ comes to this realization, a moment of
clarity. Just get this guy home alive.