Air Force Pararescuemen are one of the elite units. They have to be, given that they have one very important — and dangerous — mission: to retrieve downed aircrews, even if they’re behind enemy lines. One good cinematic portrayal of these heroes was by Ty Burrell (best known as Phil Dunfy on Modern Family), who portrayed Tim Wilkinson in Black Hawk Down.
Ty Burrell playing Air Force PJ Tim Wilkinson. (Screenshot from Columbia Pictures Black Hawk Down)
Pararescue has its origins in World War II and became vitally important once the U.S. launched a strategic bombing campaign. During the Korean War, pararescue used early helicopters to evacuate over 8,000 critically wounded casualties and to save over 1,000 personnel from behind enemy lines. They became a legend in the Vietnam War with the Jolly Green Giants, and today, they are often called on to rescue those wounded in combat.
When the Pararescuemen are deployed, they bring a lot of skills to the table, but how do they stay ready when they’re not deployed? According to an Air Force release, Air Force Pararescuemen team up with the Army, Navy, and Marines, along with personnel and equipment from Italy, Poland, Canada, and France to put on specialized exercises, like Angel Thunder.
A Eurocopter EC-725 picks up Angel Thunder Exercise personnel in Southern Arizona on Nov. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
“We want to create scenarios where these different Department of Defense entities have to come together to solve a problem,” said Lt. Col. Robert Rosebrough, 414th Combat Training Squadron Detachment 1 director of operations. Overseeing this exercise are people from the legendary training exercise known as Red Flag.
To wtach PJs keep their skills sharp, check out the video below. Not only will you see V-22 Ospreys operating in this exercise, but you’ll also catch a French chopper from the Armée de l’Air Française taking part as well.