David L. Robbins
Novelist, Educator, Playwright, Essayist
David Interviews Pararescueman (2012)
by David L. Robbins on May 19th, 2014

As part of the research for his thriller The Devil's Waters, David interviews Lt. Col. John McElfroy (USAF Combat Rescue Officer) and Mst. Sgt. Jules Roy (USAF Pararescueman).


David L. Robbins: Describe the mission of a USAF Guardian Angel (GA) pararescue team.

Lt. Col. John McElroy, USAF Combat Rescue Officer: GA teams deploy all over the world to provide combat rescue and recovery force. We’re trained and equipped to operate in any environment, day or night, hostile or civil, extreme cold to tropical, swift water to mountain, confined space to open ocean. Bottom line, GA teams are ready and willing to rescue or recover US military personnel, civilians, Coalition partners, or anyone else the President of United States deems appropriate, anywhere, anytime.

DLR: It’s said that the parajumpers (PJs) are among the most highly trained of all Special Forces in the U.S. military. True?

Mst. Sgt. Jules Roy, USAF Pararescueman: There’s a lot of mutual admiration among all Special Operators. We view each other like the spokes of a wagon wheel, every one of us supports the center. Like SEALs and ODAs, GA forces get some of the most elite combat training that DoD has to offer. But in addition to that, every PJ is a national registered paramedic, with combat medical skills surpassing any others in the U.S. military. It’s this combination that sets Guardian Angels apart from our Army, USMC, and Navy Special Ops brothers.

DLR: Why don’t you see more PJs in the media? Why are you Combat Search and Rescue
guys so quiet?

McElroy: All Special Forces organizations are looking for the same guy. The one who, no matter what obstacle is in front of him, is going to hit it with 100 percent effort. Then hit the next obstacle the same way, over and again. There’s no misconception about what amazing things the thousands of SEALs and ODAs do, but we’ve only got a couple hundred pararescuemen. It’s hard to get the word out with such a small group. Though most people don’t think about us when they think Special Ops ground forces, ask any pilot, air crew, wounded or isolated soldier or civilian we’ve rescued what a PJ is. He’ll tell you.

DLR: Explain the different responsibilities between a PJ and a Combat Rescue Officer (CRO). Tell me how a GA team works in the field.

McElroy: Each recovery team consists of a number of PJs and a CRO commander. The CRO is the officer in charge of the ground element, working with other leadership on the scene or with air assets supporting the operation. He’ll make big picture decisions on movement and employment. His PJ team leader, usually the senior ranking PJ, directs the collection or medical treatment for the casualty or isolated persons.

DLR: What does the motto “That Others May Live” mean to you?

McElroy: Since my training began, I focused on this motto. Every push-up I did or mile I ran, I thought this mile or this push-up could be the one that makes me strong enough or fast enough to help someone some day. This simple motto focuses our entire squadron, and has even become a philosophy that our families must adopt to get through long days, multiple deployments, temporary duties. Everyone involved with pararescue has to understand the importance of sacrifice.

Roy: To be honest, I joined the PJs for the mountaineering, skydiving, all the different challenges. Then, on my first rescue, I realized that it was my hands keeping this one guy alive. If I stopped, he died. Right then, those words, That Others May Live, became an epiphany and all the other stuff, even my own safety, stopped mattering. Every PJ comes to this realization, a moment of clarity. Just get this guy home alive.



Posted in Interviews    Tagged with the devils waters, interview, 2012, david l robbins, pararescueman, usaf, us air force, combat rescue, richmond


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