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Patrick to host pararescue rodeo, reunion Sept 19-25

The Florida Pararescue Team will host this year's Pararescue Rodeo and Reunion Sept. 19-24 at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. Air Force Pararescue performs combat search and rescue as its primary mission, but also supports civilian search and rescue, humanitarian relief and safety, and security during all Space Coast rocket launches.  (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Stephany D. Richards)(released)

The Florida Pararescue Team will host this year's Pararescue Rodeo and Reunion Sept. 19-24 at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla. Air Force Pararescue performs combat search and rescue as its primary mission, but also supports civilian search and rescue, humanitarian relief and safety, and security during all Space Coast rocket launches. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Stephany D. Richards)(released)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The 920th Rescue Wing's Pararescue Team from its 308th Rescue Squadron will host the annual Pararescue Rodeo and Reunion here Sept. 19-25.  

 

The Reunion and Rodeo has been taking place for the past decade. These warfighters have a storied history rich in heroic deeds, on and off of the battlefield. Every two years this brotherhood rejoins to celebrate and remember its fallen teammates in addition to a friendly but tough competition known as the PJ Rodeo.

 

The week-long competition will test these elite special operators and many of the skills they employ to serve as first responders on the battlefield – saving the lives of injured soldiers, sailors and Marines.

 

The pararescue team consists of a triad of elite Airmen to include the combat rescue officer, the pararescueman and a survivalist or SERE (search evasion resistance escape) specialist which together form a human weapons system known as GAWS, the Guardian Angel Weapons System.

 

This year’s rodeo is modeled after the Army’s Best Ranger Competition. There will be 25 teams of two from different units around the Air Force competing for the win.

 

“We will be testing and grading basic skill sets,” said retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Kestranek, chairman for the rodeo and reunion. The events include parachuting accuracy, high-angle rope rescues, survival techniques, medical skills, weapons operations and overall physical endurance.

 

The rodeo provides an opportunity for PJs to build unit cohesion for current and future combat deployments and real-world life-saving missions. “PJs (pararescuemen) are good at being PJs and whoever wins will have bragging rights until the next rodeo in 2018,” said Kestranek.

 

“PJs often find themselves downrange and running into each other in different environments,” said Kestranek. “This is an opportunity for PJs from different units to work together because they might find themselves reunited on the battlefield.”

 

While the rodeo will unify PJs currently serving, the reunion portion will give them the chance to explore their legacy with those who have paved the way serving by their motto “these things we do, that others may live.”

 

“They’ll meet the guys who gave some for our country and hear about those who gave all. We will honor those who we lost over the years and celebrate their lives,” said Kestranek. “We are basically standing on the shoulders of those guys. We are taking what they taught us and moving forward and manipulating it to meet the current needs of the combatant commanders down range.”

 

There are 1,500 members in organization and estimated 500 will be in attendance at this year’s competition. Awards will be given for top three teams while individual prizes will be awarded for the best in show in various skill sets.