Pararescue Training

USAF Pararescue Training

Pararescue training is demanding.  If you meet the minimum standards, you will qualify, but you should plan to exceed the minimums to be prepared to meet the challenges that exist above the bar.  Pararescuemen perform life-saving missions in humanitarian and combat situations, in some of the toughest, most challenging circumstances imaginable.

The PAST is the Future

The Physical Ability and Stamina Test

To become a PJ you must be a proficient swimmer, meet physical standards of at least 100 points on the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST).

The times and repetitions presented here are the minimums, but the values in parenthesis are recommended by special operations trainers:

PAST Standards

  •  2 x 25 m sub surface swim no time limit
  • 500 m swim 10:00 or less (under 9 min)
  • 30 min rest
  • 1.5 mile run 9:45 or less (under 9 min)
  • 10 min rest
  • 10 pull ups (15+ )
  • 2 min rest
  • 58 sit ups (100+ )
  • 2 min rest
  • 54 push ups (100+)

Iron Man Standards:

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

Once accepted to the PJ Candidate Course, the gauntlet begins with or ten weeks of physically and mentally stressful challenges, at in Lackland AFB, Texas.


Colloquially referred to as "indoc", the mission of the Indoctrination Course is to recruit, select,  and train future PJs and Combat Rescue Officers (CROs).

During indoc, candidates undergo extensive physical and aerobic conditioning with swimming, water confidence, running, weight training and 'extreme' calisthenics.

This course helps prepare students for the rigors of training and the demands of these lifestyles. Other training includes obstacle courses, rucksack marches, diving physics, dive tables, metric manipulations, medical terminology, dive terminology, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, weapons qualifications, history of PJs, and leadership reaction course. Graduation of this course is the "ticket to ride the pipeline," where Pararescuemen begin learning the special skills that make PJs highly regarded special operators.

Then comes a gauntlet of courses, where physical training and mental preparedness and conditioning continue, while the candidate develops skills needed to become a fully qualified special tactics Pararescueman.  Included in the skills development training, the apprentice also attends the Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course, and the Special Operations Combat Medic Course, which combines prior acquired skills and develops new skills and confidence.

- US Army Airborne School - 3 weeks
- US Army Combat Divers School - 4 weeks
- US Navy Underwater Egress Training - 1 day
- US Air Force Basic Survival School - 2.5 weeks
- US Army Free-fall Parachutist School - 5 weeks
- Special Operations Combat Medic Course - 22 weeks
- Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course - 20 weeks

If a Pararescueman is assigned to a special tactics team he will receive additional training along with Air Force Combat Controllers in Advanced Skills Training.

Superman School

The process of becoming a "PJ" isknown informally as "the Pipeline" or "Superman School".  Almost two years long, it's among the longest special operations training courses in the world.  It also has one of the highest training attrition rates in the entire U.S. special operations community, at around 80%.


To call the training challenging is to underestimate the physical and mental toughness experience.

Graduates of Superman School are rewarded with the signature Pararescue Maroon Beret.  You are then, one of the most highly trained special operators and combat medics anywhere.

Down Range

Once a Pararescueman has completed the pipeline, he is assigned to a Rescue or Special Tactics team where training enters the 'down-range', or on-the-job training phase where experience with situational challenges are staged.

Pararescue training is never over, and Pararescuemen strive to perfect the skills where they are already the experts.