Seven hours after an American plane went down during NATO air assaults on Yugoslavia, an elite search and rescue team beat the Yugoslav army to the pilot and brought him to safety.
These teams face some of the toughest training in the world, reports CBS This Morning Senior Correspondent Hattie Kauffman from Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Out of every 100 airmen who sign up for the training, only 15 make it through the class. The cost to train each pararescuer is $200,000.
Search and rescue teams must be able to operate in all different climates, according to Staff Sgt. Joseph Barnard, a primary operations instructor at Kirtland.
Â"Physical prowess is definitely important, thatÂ's for sure,Â" Barnard said.
Barnard says there are no women in the course, because only men engage in hand-to-hand combat.
Some of the equipment used by search and rescue teams:
- Zodiac Boat Â— inflatable, equipped with submersible engine
- Free-fall parachutes
- Vests Â— packed with water, signaling devices, two-way radios
- Medical kit Â— equipped with 60 pounds of gear for IVs, therapy and trauma cases.
- Weapons Â— used in defensive measures only, important for combat rescue
Â"We have to go through the same survival training the pilots go through and we have to be able to save ourselves before we can save anybody,Â" Barnard said.
The airmen must train on a climbing wall to simulate landing in mountainous terrain and to practice positioning themselves as close to their target as possible.
Should the need arise, Barnard says, every member of the team is ready to go into Kosovo.