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Personal Story of a Spec Ops Candidate: Failing Pararescue Indoc and What to Do After

6 min read

I included this story because I know there are a lot of people who made the attempt and  tried out for a Special Operations career and failed.  Those who try out generally have interesting perspectives to share. Many readers already know that getting a slot as a Pararescueman is difficult and requires a lot of effort. You have to have a lot of heart. Some make it on the first attempt and go onto a great career. Some fail and never try again. Some fail, go back to try, and actually succeed. No matter the choice you make the best approach is to be honest with yourself. Know what you lack and find a way to improve.

This story comes from a young Air Force Airman, and I recall he had gone to Donald Tamm’s house in order to be trained by him. Don told him, “I can get your prepared, but this is what you’ll have to do to get there. Go home, think about it, and come see me if you’re serious.” The Airman said he indeed was ready for training but Don told him to go home and think about it. The Airman went home and came back to Don’s house a week later. He told Don, “I’m ready”. They began the day by doing grueling workouts. Over the course of training, under Don, the Airman dropped his swim and run times by incredible run times. Would he be ready for Pararescue Indoc? 

Mike (Ed).

“This is my personal story. In it I express my personal experiences, beliefs and how they have shaped my life.

In January of 2014 I was eliminated from Pararescue indoc. I and 12 other eliminated and heartbroken PJ hopefuls double timed back to the dorms and spent the next several weeks doing mundane details and watching more and more of our new friends slowly trickle back into the dorms in their dress blues signaling their self-initiated elimination or failure to meet the standards.

For myself I spent the next several months in confusion, dispirited self-condemnation and self-hatred. Day after day I would beat myself up thinking about how I should have tried harder and how I could have done it differently. I even went so far as to throw myself pity parties and think about how unfair it was that there were other people who failed multiple events when I only failed one.

During this time I shut people out and stayed to myself and would only talk to other people who I knew had also been eliminated. All this time I spent dealing with these emotions and thoughts crashing against me day after day and I did nothing to stop it. I forgot about my friends and family that were supporting me. I had one friend whom I had met as a SOT Student Out of Training, who stuck beside me through all my sorrow, stubbornness and self-pity and was always encouraging me to look on the bright side of each day. He and I had one detail that we always were excited about completing each morning and afternoon which was flag duty; a three man team would bring the flag out to the flag pole in the morning (usually it was never warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit) and take it down, fold it and march her back inside at the end of the day.

He has become one of my greatest friends through this journey. He helped to anchor me from becoming completely shut off from the world. My parents were a great source of encouragement, especially my dad who encouraged me to not give up and come home and to push ahead with whatever job came my way. These two men in particular were there for me when I had no idea what to do, what to think and were there for me when every emotion crashed down on me and reduced me to tears.

I eventually was re-classed to be a C-130 crew chief and sent to my next tech training base which was placed in Wichita Falls Texas for the next four and a half months. One day during my tech training a thought occurred to me, what good does all this self-pity and anger do for me and how does it help me. I saved the question for later and when I had some time I began to think on it. I finally came to the conclusion that it does, in fact, do absolutely nothing for me.

I was in the middle of being trained for my next job as a crew chief with a time limit of 18 months before I could try again and I was wasting time putting my anguish in place of my ultimate goal which was and still is to become a Pararescue Jumper. Having come to this conclusion my next line of thinking was now how do I get over this anguish and be rid of it so that I won’t be distracted. Being a believer of Jesus I turned to my Bible and was led by the Holy Spirit to several verses on of which being Jeremiah 29:11 which reads ” “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

While this gave me inspiration and indeed hopes for the future I still was dealing with these emotions which served as road blocks. I decided to call and tell a friend of mine what I was going through and the gap between this verse and my current situation. She proceeded to tell me that many times the problem lies in self unforgiveness and unforgiveness towards the people who had hurt me and helped lead me in prayer to forgive myself. Having had these burdens lifted from my spirit I soon discovered that if I wanted them to stay gone I had to fight the battle in my mind that I am still worthy to achieve my dream.

Over the past year I have learned many things. I have experienced much in a short time and hope that my story can help those of you who have had their hopes and dreams dashed and broken. I have learned that no matter the circumstance there is always hope for the future. I have built my way of life on the principles set down by God for a better life. I believe that the keys to success have been written down in the Bible for everyone to have.

I believe that the short version of those keys to success and achieving any goal you hold dear is this, It is ok to be in pain, it is ok to get overwhelmed and even cry, it is ok to ask for help, it is even ok to fall flat on your face because these things are a quality of being human. It is not, however, acceptable to whine, it is not acceptable to complain, it is not acceptable to blame someone else for your situation, it is not acceptable to try and dodge your responsibilities whatever they may be because you have chosen to go that road and it is most certainly never acceptable to quit on yourself or those around you.

As for me, I will go back and try again. I will continue to try again until I either make it or destroy my body to the point they will not accept me. I’m not training to pass anymore but to smoke this course. I hope they consider making it harder after I go through with a smile on my face.

To those of you who are in the same position I hope the best for you and success in your future endeavor.” Airman Rhys Norvelle

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”




(Image credit goes to: http://thebrigade.thechive.com/2012/08/12/if-you-go-down-you-want-these-bad-a-guys-pjs-in-high-res-30-hq-photos/pj-pararescue-920-18/)

(Main Image credit is of Pararescueman Tanquillo jumping in California at Moffett Field)

Originally published Aug 16, 2015 @ 04:19




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