Candidates learn survival skills, combat readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samantha Krolikowski
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Phase II of the Combat Rescue Officer Assessment Program, a portion of the selection process for potential CRO candidates, was conducted Oct. 13- 20, at Fairchild Air Force Base. This program is managed by the Air Combat Command and hosted by the 336th Training Group. During Phase II, operators and psychologists screen and identify candidates with strong leadership potential to command specialized personnel recovery forces for physically and mentally demanding operations. A CRO is a battlefield Airmen whose primary duty is ground-to-air warfare with the chief purpose of recovering isolated personnel or national assets.

"This is the Combat Rescue Officer selection process, Phase I is just an application process," said Lt. Col. Patrick O'Rourke, Combat Rescue Officer and Guardian Angel functional manager. "Candidates have to submit a short essay telling us why they want to become a Combat Rescue Officer, and they have to submit all of their medical files to show that they're qualified. They also submit an initial physical training test to show they're qualified to come and participate in the Phase II selection."

Minimum physical standards require candidates to pass the Air Force Special Operations Command Physical Training test, which includes a timed three mile run, timed 1500-meter swim, pull-ups, pushups and sit-ups.

The Phase II portion of the selection process is physically and mentally demanding, placing candidates under extreme stress to see how they deal with each task given to them. The candidates had timed eight mile running sessions, water confidence training, non-conventional calisthenics sessions, leadership challenges and reaction drills, multiple field training exercises during the day and night, rucksack marches up to six miles each, a psychological evaluation, a formal briefing and a CRO leadership board interview.

"The individual events are difficult, but the most challenging part is continuous, fast-paced, ever-evolving stress inoculation continuing throughout the week," said Capt. Marcus Truman, 66th Training Squadron assistant director of operations. "This course is designed with one event right after another. High stress tolerance and resiliency is a must."

"We're looking at their ability to make it through the training because it's physically demanding. For phase two, we're looking at their ability to really enter the pipeline, and be successful during the training, as well as coming into the Combat Rescue Officer career field and meet the demands of the career field as a whole," said O'Rourke.

The success rate during Phase II selection is only about 15 percent, but when selected through this process, the success rate through pipeline training is 90 percent. Enlisted members who make it through will be commissioned; those commissioned will be sent directly to an operational unit to enter pipeline training.

Of the original thirty-seven applicants, seven were selected from this class to lead other commissioned and enlisted candidates through the next two years of specialized training. Upon completion of this training, these warriors will continue to train and operate alongside the Department of Defense's most elite.

"The United States places a lot of faith in ensuring its protectors are prepared to bring home its citizens and expects the highest caliber of leaders to be out in front," said Truman. "Combat Rescue Officers work side-by-side with other commanders and interagency leaders to carry out one of the most challenging tasks--saving lives and safeguarding the honor of our nation and its citizens."

"The Combat Rescue Officer in development is focused on personal recovery," said O'Rourke. "They will be rescuing isolated personnel, whether it be downed aircrew, joint service, whoever is isolated that needs to be rescued."

In order to be a Combat Rescue Officer, candidates require a college degree, need to be medically and physically qualified, must be selected through the Phase I and II process and complete all pipeline training courses.

In this Phase II selection course, candidates consisted of military officers, enlisted personnel and students from a variety of Line Officer Accession Programs, to include the United States Air Force Academy, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The program is conducted twice each year, and is usually done in conjunction with the Air Force Academy vacations as well as other college vacations. Heavy consideration is given to prior military service, academic achievement and leadership abilities.

"It's a great time to do it, we have to continue to bring guys in, and so they have different opportunities to come out," said O'Rourke. "Fairchild offers a phenomenal training environment; it is set up with the survival school. We have all of the logistical support, facilities and it's easy to travel in and out. It takes the demand off of operational squadrons to come here. Fairchild facilitates this type of training year round."

To view the survival skills slideshow, click here.
To view the combat water training slideshow, click here.