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They serve 'that others may live'

Pararescuemen from the 31st Rescue Squadron on Kadena Air Base, Japan, carry a F470 Zodiac boat from the water used to pick up fellow pararescuemen Jan. 16.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Pararescuemen from the 31st Rescue Squadron on Kadena Air Base, Japan, carry a F470 Zodiac boat from the water used to pick up fellow pararescuemen Jan. 16. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Capt. J. Harman from the 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, swims to the edge of a F470 Zodiac boat after jumping into the warm, blue waters of Okinawa during a weekly training exercise Jan. 16, at the White Beach Naval facility.  Pararescuemen participate in their weekly proficiency jump which keeps members current in the proper procedures of rescue and keeps them mission ready.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Capt. J. Harman from the 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, swims to the edge of a F470 Zodiac boat after jumping into the warm, blue waters of Okinawa during a weekly training exercise Jan. 16, at the White Beach Naval facility. Pararescuemen participate in their weekly proficiency jump which keeps members current in the proper procedures of rescue and keeps them mission ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Capt. J. Harman, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, holds two of the 4,500 flags that he volunteered to fly on the USS Arizona along with 39 volunteers this past Dec. 7 - the 65th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Capt. Harman wanted to jump into Okinawa with them to symbolize reuniting all of the fallen soldiers that never had the chance to fight with all the ones who fought on Okinawa.  He is giving the two flags to his parents who are both veterans.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Capt. J. Harman, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, holds two of the 4,500 flags that he volunteered to fly on the USS Arizona along with 39 volunteers this past Dec. 7 - the 65th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Capt. Harman wanted to jump into Okinawa with them to symbolize reuniting all of the fallen soldiers that never had the chance to fight with all the ones who fought on Okinawa. He is giving the two flags to his parents who are both veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Staff Sergeant Chris Harding, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, glides into the warm, blue waters of Okinawa during a weekly training exercise Jan. 16, at the White Beach Naval facility.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Staff Sergeant Chris Harding, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, glides into the warm, blue waters of Okinawa during a weekly training exercise Jan. 16, at the White Beach Naval facility. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Senior Airman Jonathan Courtright, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, gets ready to start the F470 Zodiac boat for a 3-mile boat ride back to the dock at the White Beach Naval facility after participating in a weekly training exercise Jan. 16.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Senior Airman Jonathan Courtright, 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, gets ready to start the F470 Zodiac boat for a 3-mile boat ride back to the dock at the White Beach Naval facility after participating in a weekly training exercise Jan. 16. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Master Sergeant Rich Carroll and Senior Airman Chris Harding from the 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, rinse off the salt water from parachutes and clean up gear after participating in a weekly training exercise Jan. 16.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

Master Sergeant Rich Carroll and Senior Airman Chris Harding from the 31st Rescue Squadron, Kadena Air Base, Japan, rinse off the salt water from parachutes and clean up gear after participating in a weekly training exercise Jan. 16. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Kelly Timney)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --Captain J. Harman from the 31st Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, swims to the edge of a F470 Zodiac boat after jumping into the waters of Okinawa, Japan during a weekly training exercise on January 16, at the White Beach Naval facility.  Pararescuemen participate in their weekly proficiency jump which keeps members current in the proper procedures of rescue and keeps them mission ready.  (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Kelly Timney)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --Captain J. Harman from the 31st Rescue Squadron at Kadena Air Base, swims to the edge of a F470 Zodiac boat after jumping into the waters of Okinawa, Japan during a weekly training exercise on January 16, at the White Beach Naval facility. Pararescuemen participate in their weekly proficiency jump which keeps members current in the proper procedures of rescue and keeps them mission ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Kelly Timney)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Normally, when people hear about members of the 31st Rescue Squadron, they think of them as super heroes who act on a moment's notice, jumping out of aircraft in a blaze of gunfire to save a downed pilot.

Combat search and rescue is more than what people see in the movies -- pararescuemen - also known as PJs - perform combat land and water recovery operations. PJs also rescue prisoners of war regardless of what the environment or threat conditions might be.

The 31st RQS mission is to provide search and rescue coverage for all flying operations. They work closely with the 33rd Rescue Squadron, which operates the HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

"When called upon, the 31st RQS uses pararescue jumpers, survival evasion resistance and escape specialists, and combat rescue officers who work together to report, locate, support, recover and reintegrate isolated military members," Maj. Andrew Reisenweber, 31st RQS director of operations, said. "The most unique part about the squadron at Kadena compared to other overseas bases is that they are the only combat rescue squadron (and SERE) operating outside the continental United States."

Senior Airman Jonathan Courtright, a two-year PJ, said, "I've been on a few missions since joining the 31st RQS. One mission was an F-15 that crashed off the coast of Okinawa and I recently responded to the mudslides in the Philippines."

Pararescuemen specialize in survivor contact, treatment and extraction while SERE specialists provide initial and refresher training to ensure PJs can return from various engagements.

All pararescuemen selected must attend eight different schools within a 17-month period to obtain necessary training.

The Pararescue/Combat Control Indoctrination Course located at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, is a two-month training course consisting of endurance training such as running and swimming, which helps the Air Force eliminate those unprepared for the rigors of the job.

The Airborne School, located at Fort Benning, Ga., is a three-week course where students learn basic parachuting skills such as "mass exit" techniques. They are required to jump using a static line parachute. After graduating, students earn their "jump" wings.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Underwater School, located in Key West, Fla., is four weeks of intense surface and subsurface swims using compass and attack boards. Upon completing the training, students earn their "bubble" badges and are certified as combat divers.

Other schools include the U.S. Navy Underwater Egress Training, U.S. Air Force Survival School, U.S. Army Military Freefall Parachutist School, Special Operations Combat Medic Course, and the 20-week Pararescue School located at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

"The hardest part of our job is finding enough time and resources to keep our PJs, SERE and CROs trained and proficient in the wide variety of skills they need to do their jobs," Major Reisenweber said.

However, he said the most rewarding part about being a pararescuemen is saving lives. All the hard work that goes on at the unit is dedicated to that.