Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Jimmy Settle, author of “Never Quit: From Alaska Wilderness Rescues to Afghanistan Firefights as an Elite Special Ops PJ.” In his book, he not only talks about the time he walked away from getting shot in the head while in Afghanistan but what it was like to become a PJ and operate in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable. “Never Quit” goes on sale today. You can also listen to our Podcast with Jimmy and SOFREP writer and former PJ, BK.
1) What advice, for both mental and physical preparation, would you give to airmen that are interested in becoming Pararescuemen?
JS: Get fit, practice the PAST (Physical Ability and Stamina Test), pararescue is about teamwork so train with a buddy. Spend obscene amounts of time in the pool. Run, do calisthenics. Maintain strengths, identify and develop weaknesses. Be prepared to live outside of your comfort zone, to be uncomfortable so long that it becomes comfortable, and then push further. I am a relatively average person, I went online, found the INDOC standards and started training to those standards. Nowadays, there are loads of workout programs to prepare anybody to do anything, I recommend finding one that fits your goals. During all the fitness preparation, I strongly suggest developing and practicing mental habits and tricks, like a good sense of humor, to bolster the spirit and keep you motivated. Everyone can smile on the easy days, it’s the guy who can smile after a crazy day I wanted to emulate. Finally, be humble. As a good friend said to me after we both failed our first round at Combat Dive School, “Man, you can go from hero to zero just like that.”
2) When did it really sink in how lucky you are to be alive after being shot in the head?
JS: Immediately and everyday I am thankful to still be alive. I have re-lived that moment countless times, and without a doubt, I was very lucky that day. If my head was turned just the tiniest bit, the result would have been catastrophic. I am grateful for to be here and lucky to have great friends and a loving family.
3) You have mentioned other close calls before, how did those incidents shape how you operated as a PJ?
JS: I tried to learn from each event, the recurring lesson has been that a positive mental attitude, focus and hard work pay off. Events helped me become stronger, confident, experienced and prepared, yet humble, optimistic and ready for the next adventure.
4) You have been credited for saving 38 lives and assisting in saving 28 others in combat, which rescue is the most memorable? Do you stay in touch with any of those you have saved?
JS: There are two missions that stick out in my mind. One is in Afghanistan on the first flight back into bulldog right after having our helicopters shot out of the area which resulted in leaving two of my teammates on the ground in an intense and ongoing firefight with many injured troops needing help. Another mission, a little lite hearted, takes place in Alaska with a hunter who had fallen into a patch of thorny devil’s club, resulting in most of his body being punctured, including his most personal areas, by long sharp needles.
The way rescues go down, there usually isn’t a whole lot of opportunities to swap info. When a patient is handed off to the doctors, it is probably going to be the last time I will see them. So, unfortunately, my time with a patient is finite and there isn’t a lot of follow-up or closure. I do the best I can with my time with them and hope the best for their future.
5) Are you going to continue on in the medical field now that you are retired from being a PJ? In your book, you mention going back to college.
JS: To succeed as a PJ, you have to be skilled at medicine as well as many other areas. PJ’s spend their entire careers learning new ways to approach rescues. This created a habit to keep learning and it is translating very well into the academic environment. Currently I have been taking a broad range of classes to try to get an idea about what I want to be when I grow up.