Current and former U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen and Combat Rescue Officers came together from around the world, to compete against each other in the 2021 PJ Rodeo in physically and technically challenging events around Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 25-29, 2021.
“The rodeo has been a 40-year tradition in the PJ community,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Andrada, 68th Rescue Squadron operations superintendent. “This year, we had over 30 PJs compete. That wouldn’t have happened without the support of the 563rd Rescue Group and the 355th Wing and all the 120 volunteers that helped support this year’s rodeo and reunion.”
The first day of the competition tested competitors shooting accuracy and patient extraction. All competitors started on a dirt strip shooting at targets and racing to their mock patient. Once at the patient, they ran back to the starting point and loaded the mock patient onto a training Pavehawk.
The precision parachute course was on day two. Competitors jumped from an aircraft at 6,000 feet in the air, trying to land the closest to the 8-foot diameter painted target on the ground.
The stakes were even higher on day three with the medical monster mash. Two-person teams climbed over a 6-foot wall while carrying an 80-pound medicine ball over a distance, conducted various callisthenic exercises, and then climbed a rugged, cactus-filled hill, all while wearing a 20-pound vest.
If that wasn’t enough — competitors then immediately jumped into a pool, saving and treating a mock patient, while simultaneously battling their own exhaustion.
By the time the competitors reached the fourth day, they had completed shooting, jumping, swimming, hiking, and of course rescuing. This day was focused on rope climbing and rappelling patient rescue. Two-person teams started by climbing up the side of a six-story building with the mock patient, zip lining from one building to another, and then rappelling to the ground with the mock patient.
“This competition is made to get the newer PJs involved, where they can practice and compete on their core skills,” said retired Maj. James Cusic, prior enlisted PJ and special tactics officer. “The reunion aspect is focused on getting the older PJs and senior leaders involved, so that the newer guys can learn from their experiences.”
On the last day of the rodeo and reunion, former PJs and CROs celebrated by announcing the winners. This year’s winners were Staff Sgt. Christopher Coy and his brother Senior Airman David Coy from the 306th RQS under the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 943rd RQG. After the announcement of the winners, everyone in attendance including service members from the Korean War and Gold Star families, said their farewells before going back to their homes and units to continue supporting the rescue mission.
DM is home to the 563rd RQG, which consists of seven squadrons. These squadrons execute a variety of rescue missions to include PJ training and operational capabilities, as well as flying the HC-130J Combat King II and HH-60G Pavehawk.