It's back, the 2021 PJ Rodeo and Reunion

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Turnbull
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

The 2021 Pararescuemen Rodeo and Reunion invited current and former U.S. Air Force PJs and Combat Rescue Officers from across the world to compete against each other in physically and technically challenging events around Tucson, Arizona, Oct. 25-29, 2021.

“The rodeo has been a 40-year tradition in the PJ community,“ said U.S. Air Force 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.

On day two was the precision parachute course, were competitors jumped out of an aircraft from 6,000 feet in the air trying to land the closest to the 8-foot diameter painted target on the ground.

The sakes 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 lastly, climbed a rugged, cactus-filled hill, all while wearing a 20-pound vest.

If that wasn’t enough; immediately following, they jumped into a pool saving and treating a mock patient, 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. But this day, they focused on rope climbing and rappelling patient rescue. A two-person team would start by climbing up the side of a six-story building with the mock patient, zip line from one building to an another and then, rappel down 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 U.S. Air Force 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.”

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 to support 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.