Pararescue Jumpers, an elite American military unit, are skilled paramedics, can recover victims from just about anywhere, and know how to use a machine gun from a helicopter door. This book follows Brehm and others at PJ school, and at home, in 1978 to 2001. Daring missions are detailed in full.
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Senior Master Sergeant Jack Brehm is a member of the Pararescue Jumpers, America's most elite military unit formed after World War Two to rescue troops behind enemy lines and in peacetime, civilians in danger around the world. They recover victims from deserts to the high seas and are highly skilled paramedics who also know how to operate a machine gun from a helicopter door. Brehm relives his daring missions in a tale that makes for action-adventure at its compelling best.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
1. SHOOTING STARS
As a PJ said to me once, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it.”
In an Air Force C-130 Hercules, flying at 26,000 feet, Sgt. Jack Brehm and five other men are preparing to jump. It’s night. Amateurs and recreational jumpers don’t jump at night, nor do they jump from 26,000 feet, but Sgt. Brehm is not an amateur. He’s a member of the Air Force’s elite pararescue team, a PJ, they’re called, short for “para-rescue jumper,” tasked with rescuing pilots who get shot down behind enemy lines. PJ is the abbreviation used in flight logs when a pararescueman is a member of a flight crew. The pilot is P, the co-pilot is CP, the flight engineer is FE, and so on. It’s dangerous to jump at night, and to jump from this altitude, and it’s always dangerous to jump behind enemy lines, particularly when the enemy knows they’ve shot down an American pilot and have dispatched troops to find him. It’s considered something of a coup these days to, in times of war, display the picture of a captured pilot on television, but PJs know they’re charged with a higher calling than to simply prevent an enemy in Baghdad or Belgrade from gaining the upper hand in a photo-ops contest. PJs do what they do, “That others may live.” This is their motto, their “prime directive.” There aren’t a lot of people who live by mottoes any more, but if you’re going to live by a motto, it’s hard to think of a better one. PJs wear maroon berets, and on the metal flash is the image of an angel enfolding the world in its wings.
Before the jump, the men in the C-130 check each other’s equipment to make sure everyone has what he needs, and that all is in working order. The only light inside the airplane is red, so that their eyes will be accustomed to the darkness when they jump. They are also equipped with night vision goggles, but they won’t use their NVG gear until they’re on the ground. The binocular vision of the goggles greatly reduces their peripheral range and impairs depth perception, and they’ll need peripheral range and depth perception to make it to the ground safely. “Two minutes to target,” Brehm hears the pilot say, over the radio inside his helmet. “Air speed 125. Cloud deck at 13,000 feet.” “Clouds,” one man says. It’s unpleasant to jump into a cloud bank, particularly at night. “Oh well,” a second says. “I needed a bath anyway.” “That was you?” a third says. “I thought something died in the oxygen console.” “Gentlemen,” the team leader says. Joking soothes the nerves, but it’s time to be serious. The jumpmaster stands by the open door, a large ramp at the rear of the airplane, and holds up two fingers, meaning in two minutes, Brehm will step off the end of the ramp and out into the night. The men signal the jumpmaster with a thumbs up to indicate they’ve heard and understood his message. All eyes are on the jumpmaster. If he doesn’t abort the mission in the next two minutes by holding up a closed fist, then it’s a go. Brehm, who will be the high man in the stack, is last in line. He is also the oldest man in the line. Some day, he’ll be too old to do this job. Lately, as he’s begun to consider retirement, silly fears or notions have been popping up. Superstitions. “What if...s?” that he doesn’t particularly care to tell anyone about. The vague notion that he is pushing his luck, a notion that can only come to a man who knows that for the better part of his adult life, he has been very lucky. He once predicted he wouldn’t live to see thirty, and he was sort of joking when he said it, but not entirely. He is now forty-two years old. There are few men doing this job who are older.
The jumpmaster gives the ready signal by holding his right hand in the air and pointing at the ceiling. Then he gives the jump signal by pointing out the door. On a static line jump, the jumpers would follow each other off the ramp one at a time at one second intervals, but this is free fall. They jump en masse, stepping off backwards to hit the wind square on with their chests.
The adrenaline rush is immediate. As he falls, Brehm feels the same butterflies in his stomach one feels when an elevator starts down, but to a much greater extent. It keeps on coming as he picks up speed, a body-shuddering sensation. At the same time, once he steps out of the airplane, everything becomes suddenly quiet and hushed, which induces a sense of peacefulness.
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Book Description Ebury Press, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0091877911