SrA. Michael Bartelheim (front) and Brian Rickert, 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron pararescue jumpers, offload a simulated patient from an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter at the Air Force Theater Hospital helo pad during an exercise at JB Balad, Iraq, Dec. 2, 2010. Air Force photo by TSgt. Stacy Fowler.
Air Education and Training Command will stand up a new battlefield airman recruiting squadron on Oct. 1 in an effort to bring in the right kind of recruits, capable of making it through the grueling training pipeline, Air Education and Training Command boss Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson told reporters at ASC17 on Wednesday.
Battlefield airmen—including pararescue jumpers (PJ), combat controllers, tactical air control party, and special operations weather team members—“have the highest attrition rate of any specialty in the US Air Force,” said Roberson, who noted roughly 80 percent of airmen attempting to become PJs wash out.
“We’re having challenges with the production, from recruiting all the way through graduation,” said Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Brad Webb. Although those “are small numbers,” Webb said, it’s not “something a small force can sustain when batting below 50 percent in the field. It won’t manifest itself today, but five years from now, it will be a real challenge.”
The two commands will work side-by-side in the recruiting squadron and once a new recruit is brought in, he or she will immediately be connected to a “developer” to help them physically and mentally prepare even before they come to Basic Military Training. Once at BMT, Roberson said, the Air Force will take advantage of the little down time battlefield airmen have to provide extra training, said Roberson. Then, after graduation, AETC is now offering a six-week battlefield airmen prep course.
“We have one course that’s graduated and we’re in the second course on battlefield airmen prep. We’re already seeing a trend that we really like and I hope it will make a difference,” said Roberson.