Combat Rescue Officer OverviewAlso see:
CRO Selection package (downloads)
Note: this article is old and may contain slight inaccuracies/old information
Chief Master Sgt. Don Shelton has spent 28 years depending on outsiders to speak for him.
But that's about to change. After decades of fierce debate, pararescuemen are finally getting an officer cadre to carry their colors into budget battles and closed strategy sessions. The Air Force announced the
creation of the new combat-rescue officer career field Oct. 11. For some, the change will be a bitter pill to swallow, ending a 53-year-old tradition of enlisted members managing their own business. But for a majority of pararescuemen, the change is long overdue. "When it comes time to fighting the fights that you need at the 0-6 level and
above, you need officers," said Shelton, chief of pararescue for the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. By 2007, the Air Force hopes to have the new career field fully manned with 100 active-duty and 66 Reserve officers. Fifteen of those officers will be selected this year, beginning their training in February. Much of their training will mirror that of the enlisted pararescuemen.
Where they will go (166 CROs assigned over next 7 years):
|AF Special Operations Command||62|
|Pacific Air Forces||13|
|US Air Forces Europe||3|
|Air Education and Training Command||14|
|Air National Guard||38|
|Air Force Reserve||28|
The Air Force is looking for 170 officers who want to trade in their desks for a parachute and flippers. Officers who accept the challenge will spend 53 grueling weeks crawling under concertina wire and fast-roping from helicopters in their quest to belong to the first officer cadre for pararescuemen. By 2007, the service hopes to have 100 active-duty and 66 reserve combat-rescue officers trained and assigned to rescue squadrons throughout the Air Force. Air Force officials hope to select the first three combat-rescue officers by November, sending them through training in February. Another dozen officers should be selected by next October, with at least 40 officers being assigned to the new career field by March 2002. About three-fourths of the active-duty officers will be assigned to bases under Air Force Special Operations Command, Pacific Air Forces and Air Education and Training Command, said Lt. Col. Ken Rodriguez, executive officer to the deputy chief of staff for air and space operations.
|Combat Rescue Officer Indoctrination (Pararescue Indoctrination Course)||10 Weeks|
|Combat Diver Qualification||4 weeks|
|Airborne Parachutist||3 weeks|
|Military freefall parachutist||4 weeks|
|USAF Survival School||2.5 weeks|
|Introduction to Personnel Recovery (PR 101)||1 week|
|EMT Basic||3 weeks|
|Joint Airspace Command and Control course||3 Weeks|
|Pararescue training||17 Weeks|
CRO Selection Criteria
Other sites considered
Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and Keflavik Naval Air Station, Iceland, also are in the running for a new rescue squadron, as are several Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve bases. Air Force Special Operations Command bases, however, will not have combat-rescue officers assigned to them. Combat-control officers, soon to be renamed special-tactics officers, will continue to supervise airmen assigned to those bases because of their special-tactics missions, Rodriguez said. Most of the initial combat-rescue officers probably will be ex-pararescuemen or combat-control officers. That's because they have been through the enlisted training and know what to expect. They also are in pretty good shape, Rodriguez said. The officers will split their 53 weeks of training among Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.; and Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. After a 10-week introductory course, they will spend nearly three months earning scuba and parachute qualifications, which they'll need to qualify for hazardous-duty pay. Next, they'll spend nearly two months learning how to stay alive behind enemy lines and treat wounded survivors. But the bulk of their training, 17 weeks, will be spent learning how to develop and execute a rescue mission. The only thing they won't get is the full plate of medical training that enlisted pararescuemen get," Rodriguez said. For now, only male officers can serve as combat-rescue officers. But Air Force Secretary Whit Peters said the service might have to consider allowing women to serve in special operations. "I've already had inquiries from several women". But this is something that the next administration is going to have to think about," he said.
Excerpts from the article by Jennifer Palmer
TIMES STAFF WRITER
October 23, 2000 Air Force Times