Editors’ Note: Last names are not provided for security purposes
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - With the weight of the world on his shoulders, that’s roughly 80 pounds, Staff Sergeant Coty feels everything around him go quiet.
“I feel pretty clear headed before I jump.”
He sounds fearless, and almost has to be, in order to stand among those that say yes when many aren’t able to.
“We essentially put our lives on the line to save others,” said SSgt. Coty.
Coty is a pararescuemen jumper (PJ) in the Air Force with the 68th Rescue Squadron, stationed at Davis Monthan. He is currently undergoing specific training in the Combat Team Leader Course only offered at DM that started in 2014.
There are currently around 500 PJs in the Air Force, which includes guard and reserve. Out of the 500, only 20 students go through this course a year. The current class Coty is in only has nine students. Each of them has six to seven years in experience and are enlisted ranks, Staff Sergeants and Technical Sergeants.
PJs are qualified experts in:
- Advanced Weapons/Small Unit Tactics
- Airborne/Military Free Fall, both High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) and High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute operations utilizing boats, cars, or other equipment from any fixed wing airfract
- Combat Divers
- High Angle/Confined Space Rescue operations
- Small Boat/Vehicle Craft utilization
- Rescue Swimmers
- Battlefield Trauma/Paramedics
- Fast rope/rappel/hoist from any vertical lift aircraft to both land and open ocean rescue objectives
The course runs about seven weeks. Instructor and Technical Sergeant Derek said they start at the beginning with mission planning, then head into a land FMPs (Full Mission Profile), then head to the Titan Missile Silo for confined space rescue training. The group then travels to San Diego to do open ocean rescue and also a dive and recovery phase.
After the end of the seven weeks they return to DM and do one final debrief before graduation.
After the seven week course the students will be qualified team leaders of 12 PJs that can go anywhere in the world.
“We look at a lot of the historical missions in the past and see where guys have failed and we try to expose them to those things so that when they go to do those missions it won’t be an issue,” said TSgt. Derek.
The missions they are given are anything but easy.
“Instructors are going to put on some really challenging exercises for us,” said SSgt. Coty. “But it’s a good feeling to know that we’re the ones that are prepared to respond to an event that many people can’t respond to.”
But for those who willingly jump out of planes and face danger head on, there’s one question that makes them uneasy.
Who rescues the rescuer?
“I try not to think about it,” SSgt. Coty said while laughing. “That’s a hard thing to think about being the actual rescuers and a part of the rescue team.”
“It means you’re willing to put yourself at risk for someone else and just accepting those additional risks to help someone else out,” said TSgt. Matt, another student in the course.
Carrying that responsibility is not easy to shoulder. But when you have a bird’s eye view, everything else suddenly seems small.
“When you get closer and closer the more you realize, ‘you know what I’ve trained up for this’. I have all the skills I need to be prepared for this. And once you get on the x you get the job done. And the fear is not there anymore,” said SSgt. Coty.