How to Train to be a Pararescue Jumper

Paratroopers jumping.
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Pararescue jumpers are members of the United States Air Force Special Operations division. They provide emergency medical assistance, rescue, and combat support to downed aircraft and wounded soldiers. There are several requirements you must meet in order to begin training as a pararescue jumper.

1 Basic Requirements

Beyond the basic requirements for joining the Air Force, you must also meet a handful of extra requirements to ensure fitness for service, according to military information site Base Ops. First, you must have eyesight correctable to 20/20, and no worse than 20/70 in one eye and 20/100 in the other. Second, you must score at least a 43 on the ASVAB, the military's standardized intelligence test. Finally, you must be male. Note, however, that meeting these basic requirements only gives you the right to try out for pararescue service -- it does not guarantee admission.

2 Fitness Requirements

As a prospective pararescue jumper, you must pass one of the most rigorous physical fitness tests in the entire military. You must demonstrate fitness in swimming, running and strength challenges. The swimming component requires you to swim 1000 m in less than 26 minutes and swim 25 m underwater on a single breath. You must also run 1.5 miles in less than 10.5 minutes, and perform 50 situps and 50 pushups in 2 minutes or less. According to the USAF Pararescue website, however, meeting the minimum requirements may not be sufficient, and the site recommends that candidates exceed the minimum targets by about 50 percent.

3 Training Process

Pararescue jumpers are among the most highly trained special forces in the military. You start with the Air Force's standard basic training module, then begin a rigorous training regime over the course of 82 weeks, where you train at more than half a dozen different bases in special tactics like combat diving, wilderness survival and free-fall parachuting. Because pararescue jumpers are often the first help available at the scene of an accident or ambush, you also spend 22 weeks in an intensive paramedic training course. Only applicants who complete the entire program are eligible to serve as pararescue jumpers.

4 Advice for Training

Even if you meet the basic requirements and you can ace the physical fitness tests, you may still struggle to complete the rigorous training the job demands. The Air Force advises candidates that the training process is 80 percent mental, so only candidates with exceptional self-discipline and a positive attitude are likely to complete the program. Additionally, you should know that life as a pararescue jumper can be tough. Pararescue units spend weeks at a time living outdoors, and the service demands tremendous personal sacrifice. The Air Force encourages candidates to think carefully about whether they really want a life as pararescue jumper before applying.

Nick Robinson is a writer, instructor and graduate student. Before deciding to pursue an advanced degree, he worked as a teacher and administrator at three different colleges and universities, and as an education coach for Inside Track. Most of Robinson's writing centers on education and travel.