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Back to the Basics

What makes an operator different from you?  No really, sit down and think about why they are different.  Is it their rugged good looks?  The jacked and tan complexion of their skin.  The long flowing hair blowing in the wind while they are in uniform.  Maybe it’s the fact they are allowed to grow a beard on deployment and your stuck as a fobbit holding down the fort.  Sure, all of those may be obvious differences based on their appearance and job description.  Not quite what I am going for though.  What do they do that makes them so successful in their occupation?  The basics and their mindset (covered in a separate article). 

“Ooh, what a cop-out answer!”… “Boo!” 

No, im serious.  Everyone knows how to do the basics, or at least everyone knew at one point.  But the reason a PJ is so successful in technical rescue, medicine, shooting, air operations, insert skill here isn’t because they have a vigorous thirst for knowledge and just want to learn the cool guy stuff.  Sure they are all smart and do thirst for knowledge but they do the basics so well they can’t do it wrong.

So what are the basics of a Pararescueman?  Oh, im so glad you asked.  If I had to pick three things it would be medicine, combat marksmanship, and tactics. 

But what about technical rescue or air operations or other cool guy stuff… Look, its simple.  Your whole purpose for existence as a PJ is “That Others May Live”, you better be a damn good medic.  I mean tourniquet on in under 30 seconds from patient contact.  Patient packaged in under three minutes with initial assessment done and treated for hypothermia good. 

“But how do we get there?”

Start slick.  Have a buddy lie on the ground with no injuries and go through the whole gambit.  MARCH – Package – PAWS… get MARCH and Package under three minutes.  Then start adding things on.  Maybe he’s missing a limb, get that tourniquet on, finish MARCH, then package.  Get it in under three minutes.  Add an injury, get it under three minutes.  Continue with this process while ensuring that you are doing everything right have another buddy watching you and any time you use a piece of equipment do it right. But guess what, once you have him on a litter he is now prepared to move to a higher level of care.  If done in under three minutes your team is not waiting on you, you are waiting on them and as a medic that is a good spot to be in.  It ensures you are able to continue treating and truly being the patient advocate on the ground and you are not hamstrung by time.

But guess what, none of that matters if you do not understand combat marksmanship or tactics.  You can be a doctor or the best medic in the world but if you don’t understand how to manipulate the tools of warfare you will die before you get the chance to see your patient.  If you don’t understand when or how your team will maneuver to eliminate a threat it significantly increases the chances of fratricide diminishes the chance of success.

“So why would I become a PJ instead of just a medic?”

As a PJ you will be working alongside the best of the best.  It is a different caliber of individual all together there is no comparison.  A PJ is a technical rescue specialist, we have training on snow and avalanche rescue, swift water, open ocean, TCCC, technical rescue, air operations and in all honestly that’s just naming a few. The opportunities as a PJ are endless, the opportunities as an IDMT, Coreman, or army medic are limited.  But in order to get there be better than everyone else at the basics.  

Start now, whether your in the military or not.  Think about your every day life and the little things you could do in order to be more successful then do them better than you ever have before and continue doing that.


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