It takes countless years of career field education, multiple deployments and temporary duty assignments to become a pararescue team leader.
The 68th Rescue Flight executed a 65-day course for ten pararescuemen in a newly-designed course to develop their leadership abilities while obtaining their 7-level certification for their dynamic career field.
“Historically, Guardian Angel units were forced to conduct upgrade training internally,” said Capt. Michael “Jeff” Ellingsen, 68th RQF commander. “The 48th Rescue Squadron had their own method of training their team leaders; while the 58th Rescue Squadron at Nellis and the 38th RQS out at Moody also had theirs. They’re all trained independently and to different standards, whereas now the process is more efficient and effective for the entire weapon system as a whole”.
Tasked by Air Combat Command, the 68 RQF designed and implemented the Combat Leaders Course. The intent was to create a standardized course for pararescuemen to complete their 7-level certification and obtain their team leader qualification in support of the Air Force’s global missions.
“The thought process behind CLC was to identify ‘What unique skill sets do we want our future team leaders and pararescuemen to possess, and what capability do we want them to provide to the squadron commanders and the combatant commanders downrange,’” Ellingsen said.
The 10 students brought diversity to the course as they represented seven different major commands displaying a multitude of backgrounds and experiences. The knowledge and skills they learned during the course and from each other will be used in a variety of combat operations around the world.
The students mission planned and executed a multitude of scenarios including a jump mission with an overland movement, a mass casualty, and a technical rescue with the rotary wing exfiltration all within the climates of southern Arizona and California. Aside from these daily course tasks, peer performance feedbacks and intelligence briefings were included as well.
“The environment – it’s like they’re downrange,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Chubb, 68 RQF NCO in charge of intelligence analysis. “There’s a lot of helicopter landing zones that the guys can actually use and implement. A lot of things for them to do their training and it’s away from everybody. So if they want to do things like a real-life convoy or an improvised explosive device explosion, they can do that.”
The 68th RQF created this course, with ACC guidance, not only to standardize the way team leaders were trained, but to provide the Air Force with a Center of Excellence that is solely dedicated to supporting the GA weapon system’s training and operational requirements. Guardian Angel is comprised of combat rescue officers, pararescuemen, survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists and specially trained support personnel dedicated to one of the Air Force’s primary functions of personnel recovery and combat search and rescue.
The Combat Leaders Course supports the mission of not only GA, but one of the Air Force’s core competencies. With the current class being only the third iteration of pararescuemen to undergo this monumental challenge, the 68 RQF has been able to successfully consolidate resources in order to maximize the training value and knowledge of their students. This unit will continue to build and improve upon their current capabilities in order to maximize the production throughput and quality of leaders for the Guardian Angel weapon system for many years to come.
“This unit is unique in the fact that it’s the first of its kind to be implemented in the Air Force,” Ellingsen said. “We’re not a traditional rescue squadron in the sense that we support deployment taskings. This unit provides a specific operational capability for the Guardian Angel weapon system in order to support the combatant commanders. Just to be a part of something this special and watch it grow to where it’s at today in such a short time is nothing short of astounding. These guys developed the methodology, tested it, and are now fully capable of executing to meet the desired end state. The guys here (are) motivated and dedicated individuals who are willing to go extreme lengths to make a difference in the career field and make Guardian Angel a more effective combat force. Once this place reaches its full operational capability, it’s going to be a mountain and will be able to withstand anything that’s thrown at it.”