Deep breath, you walk in and speak with the Air Force Recruiter telling him you want to be a PJ, after he finishes laughing he informs you about the PAST test (Physical Ability and Stamina Test), you look it over:
- 2 x 25 m sub surface swim no time limit
- 500 m swim 10:07 or less
- 30 min rest
- 1.5 mile run 9:47 or less
- 10 min res
- 10 pull ups min
- 2 min rest
- 58 sit ups min
- 2 min rest
- 54 push ups min
Okay not a problem - you pass the PAST and you head out to BMT, and finish it. Now the truth begins - how much do you want it, how much can you endure, how much can you physically and mentally take? You begin the USAF Pararescue Indoctrination Course; INDOC for short. A brutal 10 week course that is considered to be one of the hardest military training courses out there.
Class drop out rates are often 80% some are 90%. There has been graduating classes of 1 and there has also been a class of 0. You are now a statistic, but the question is what side will you be apart of - the few the graduate or the many that drop out.
0415 your up, scrambling with the others. Putting on PT gear, grabbing your rucksack full of gear and food for the day, throw it on your back and you muster out to formation. It has begun. Standing upon a large concrete pad you do your best to look around without getting yelled out - in front of the large warehouse like building there are motivational tools that you will become very familiar with one a very large, who knows how heavy log, and a 40 foot iron rail that upon looking at it you wonder "what is that for". The large green "Jolly Roger" footprints are painted upon the pad, and you get to see them very clearly with every push up and "hooyah" you do. Ahh, that's done, lets move on...
0600 your at the pool. I'm sorry the "training tank" as most like to refer to it. Over the course of the 10 weeks you experience some of the most rigid water training to include the dreaded water confidence test; this video can show and explain a little more on the intensity of this:
You train and train and train. Your body aches, your mind is exhausted. You watch as one by one your fellow trainees walk away from an event to an airhorn sitting off to the side, raise it, blow it and announce that they are out. Defeated they walk away. You swear you wont do it, you swear you won't ever raise that horn.
Hell Night - you are up at 0430 - train all day, in bed by 2100 hrs, getting comfy cozy drifting off to your world without any Cadres.
2130 Siren Screams - you jump out of your skin, heart pounding as a Cadre comes into the dorm pissed as all mighty hell yelling though a bullhorn, "Get up! Get up! Let's move it! 2 minutes get to the HELOs!!"
You know your not running to the HELO but it's the beginnning of Hell Night, politically correct called "extended day training". No rest for anyone. 19 hours of instructors pushing their teams to all limits both mentally and physically.
Hell Night, one of the last steps to the PipeLine.
It's designed to introduce students to the rigorous operations of what life is like as a PJ. It promotes team building, ensuring you are there for your teammate, you can't pass and leave him behind. Being sleep deprived is critical in this process; helps an individual handle and cope with stress under harsh conditions - again something that is real world with the PJs.
"It's the hardest and most stressful experience they will have during the course", says SSgt Tims Hanks, a PJ instructor.
Instructors are wanting the Trainees to feel the difficulty, make mistakes and work through processes that would normally take them seconds to figure out, but with lack of sleep longer and second guess themselves. Why? When they notice an individual falling to the sleep deprivation it builds team work, the individuals quickly learn they need each other to pass. Whether it's to drag a body dummy up a hill or to complete a run, they learn to do it as a team, together. That's what it takes to get through INDOC and ultimately the PIPELINE - realizing that you can't do it by yourself.
For those who complete the 10 week course of INDOC, welcome to the PIPELINE - two years worth of some of the best, elite, hardest training and schooling one could go through.
#Discovery Channel has Surviving the Cut on Hell Night - here are the full clips