Pararescuemen are known as PJs, for Pararescue Jumpers. They hold a very unique position as USSOCOM (indeed all of DOD’s) only specific CSAR (Combat Search and Rescue) career field, trained and equipped to conduct both conventional and unconventional recovery missions, CASEVAC and MEDEVAC.

They are not simply medics, and they are anything but unarmed. Their motto is That Others May Live, and their trauma medicine capabilities combined with SOF battlefield skills make them special even within the special operations community. Their missions take them on a wide array of missions, from combat rescues of downed pilots to patrolling into remote areas with Green Berets and CAG to supporting NASA missions.

A little known fact about PJs are their officers—they were for years an all-enlisted force, until recently with the establishment of the Combat Rescue Officer. Over half of all Air Force Cross recipients are Pararescuemen. There are a number of PJ units in various locations (including the Alaska National Guard, who conduct more cold weather civilian rescues annually than they ever do CSAR deployed, which is why they need specialized gear). PJs wear maroon berets.

PJs trace their origins waaay back. Air ambulances were predicted back when CAS missions were pilots or gunners dropping hand grenades over the side of a biplane to the ground below. In WWII, Lieutenant Colonel Don Fleckinger and two medical corpsmen volunteered to drop into the jungle to provide treatment for a crew that had bailed out of  a crippled C-46.