My Military
OneSource App

Air Force Special Forces: Applying to Become a Combat Controller, Pararescueman, or Special Operations Weatherman

service member and helicopter

Each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its own elite forces, including the Air Force’s Special Tactics teams. The pararescue specialists, combat controllers and special operations weathermen in these teams are some of the most highly trained service members in the force.

If you’re a currently enlisted airman thinking about Air Force Special Operations, talk to a career counselor about transferring. You can apply and participate in the special ops selection process while enlisted and can return to your old assignment if you don’t make the cut.

Here’s a look into what it takes to join these elite teams for your future military career.

Air Force pararescue specialists: Duties, qualifications and training

The primary mission for Air Force Special Operations pararescue specialists – also known as “PJs” for “para-jumpers” – is personnel recovery. They save service members from hostile or hard-to-reach locations.

Since 9/11, PJs have successfully run over 12,000 combat rescue missions. That doesn’t include the more than 5,000 civilians rescued from natural disasters.

Anyone who wants to become a pararescue specialist must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Able to get a secret security clearance
  • Financially responsible
  • EMT-certified
  • Physically fit enough to jump from an airplane and SCUBA dive
  • Intelligent, with high general ASVAB scores

If you’re selected for transfer, expect about 70 weeks of training before your first mission. This training covers diving, parajumping and emergency medical treatment.

Air Force combat controllers: Duties, qualifications and training

The support provided by an Air Force Special Operations combat controller is second to none. After all, they have all the duties of a civilian air traffic controller – only in foreign territories made dangerous by extreme weather or enemy fire. They need to be able to safely get to foreign air strips while supporting air crews from all service branches.

Those interested in becoming a combat controller must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Physically fit enough to dive, jump from airplanes and serve on air strips
  • Financially responsible
  • Skilled as a mechanic

Combat controller training involves learning how to drive a snowmobile, SCUBA dive and parachute. In all, technical training will take more than 94 weeks to complete.

Air Force Special Operations weathermen: Duties, qualifications and training

If you’re fascinated by weather and new technology, becoming an Air Force Special Operations weatherman might be a great career choice for you. These military meteorologists deploy with other Special Forces units from both the Army and Marine Corps to provide mission-critical weather reports. Special Forces may be able to take down the enemy, but no one can stop flash floods, looming storms or sudden brushfire – all of which the Air Force weathermen can see coming and is a vital piece of mission planning.

Service members interested in joining a special operations weather team must be:

  • Between 17 and 39 years old
  • A basic training graduate
  • Physically fit and able to parachute
  • Financially responsible
  • State licensed to drive
  • Qualified to bear firearms
  • Good with electronics

Advanced training to become a special ops weatherman takes more than 138 weeks to complete. During those two-and-a-half years, you’ll learn how to report on environmental and weather conditions, use sensitive instruments and join special operations tactics.

Learn about other branches’ elite units as well as other military careers to pursue. Discover all the ways Military OneSource is your connection to information, answers and support to help you overcome challenges, reach your goals and thrive.

Learn about military bases worldwide. Get installation overviews, check-in procedures, housing, neighborhood information, contacts for programs and services, photos and more.

Find an Installation