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Sam Wilson in the MCU is a pararescueman (pararescue jumper, aka PJ) in the US Air National Guard. I don’t think there’s any official statement on his age or military career vis-à-vis how long he was active-duty before transitioning into the reserves – odds are that he would have needed to be active-duty to be considered for the Falcon program – or his rank or even his DOD status, whether he’s officially out, still a reservist, on IRR, or what. So there’s flexibility there to do what you will, I think, within certain ranges. Sam is, however, an enlisted man and not a commissioned officer. I usually put him at E-6, Technical Sergeant.
Sam in fanon is usually the team therapist, based on his role as a counselor-type person for veterans groups. What I’d like to suggest, however, is that Sam could (should?) more often be portrayed as the team medic and someone who is far less risk-averse than he is often shown. He is really going to be the last person to facepalm and tell Steve not to jump out of perfectly good aircraft without a parachute because he wasn’t kidding when he said he does everything Steve does, except slower. PJs are extremely well-trained, both in emergency medical treatment and advanced military skills – they are the most badass EMTs you will ever meet and have an extraordinarily high regard within the military community.
The PAST - Physical Ability and Stamina Test (adapted from here)
To become a PJ you must be male, a proficient swimmer, and meet physical standards of at least 100 points on the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST). This job is open to only enlisted troops. Here are the specific minimums to becoming a PJ but the numbers in the parenthesis are recommended scores from Spec Ops trainers:
- 2 x 25 m sub surface swim no time limit
- 500 m swim 10:07 or less (sub 9 min)
- 30 min rest
- 1.5 mile run 9:47 or less (sub 9 min)
- 10 min rest
- 10 pull ups min (20 )
- 2 min rest
- 58 sit ups min (100 )
- 2 min rest
- 54 push ups min (100)
The USAF ‘pipeline’ for pararescuemen (adapted from here):
Basic Military Training (BMT, Basic) : 9 weeks, Lackland AFB
AF Pararescue Development Course : 2 weeks, Lackland
This two-week course provides physical training under the oversight of sports physiologists and swimming trainers to familiarize and teach the trainees the required skills required to succeed in the indoctrination course to follow. Instructors provide student-athlete centered coaching in running, calisthenics, swimming, water confidence, Pararescue history, roles and responsibilities, career field duties, team building skills, sports nutrition, exercise physiology, and psychological enhancement training.
AF Pararescue Indoctrination Course: 9 weeks, Lackland
The mission of the Indoctrination Course is to recruit, train, and select future Pararescuemen. At this school you will participate in extensive physical conditioning, to include swimming, running, weight training and calisthenics. This course helps prepare you for the rigors of training and the demands of this career. Other training accomplished at this course includes physiological training, dive physics, metric manipulations, medical terminology, dive terminology, history, and leadership laboratories. Graduation of this course is your ticket to ride the pipeline and begin learning the skills that make PJ’s highly regarded special operators.
Air Force Combat Diver Course: 6 weeks, Navy Diving and Salvage Training Center, Panama City, Florida
The primary focus of Air Force Combat Diver Course is to develop Pararescuemen into competent, capable and safe combat divers/swimmers. This course provides diver training through classroom instruction, extensive physical training, surface and sub-surface water confidence pool exercises, pool familiarization dives, day/night tactical open water surface/sub-surface infiltration swims, open/closed circuit diving procedures and underwater search and recovery procedures.
Air Force Underwater Egress Training 1 day, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington
Survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists at Fairchild, AFB train aircrews how to safely escape from an aircraft that has landed in the water. Instruction includes principles, procedures and techniques necessary to escape a sinking aircraft. This one-day course is dedicated to underwater egress from an aircraft and primarily focuses on rotary wing aircrew.
Air Force Basic Survival School: 3 weeks, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington
This course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas - using minimal equipment. This includes instruction of principles, procedures, equipment, and techniques which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments, and return home with honor.
Army Airborne School: 3 weeks, Fort Benning, Georgia
The United States Army Airborne School - widely known as Jump School - conducts the basic paratrooper training. This is where PJ’s learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop. This course includes ground operations week, tower week, and jump week where trainees make 5 actual parachute jumps. Personnel who complete this training are awarded the basic parachutist rating and are allowed to wear the coveted parachutists wings.
Army Military Freefall Parachutist School: 5 weeks, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona
This course instructs freefall parachuting (HALO) using the high performance ram air canopy. The course provides wind tunnel training, in-air instruction focusing on student stability, aerial maneuvers, air sense, and parachute opening procedures. Each student receives a minimum of 30 freefall jumps including 2 day and 2 night jumps with oxygen equipment and field gear.
Air Force Pararescue EMT-Paramedic Course: 22 weeks, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
This course teaches how to manage trauma patients prior to evacuation and provide emergency medical treatment. Phase I is four weeks of emergency medical technician basic (EMT-B) training. Phase II lasts 20 weeks and provides instruction in minor field surgery, pharmacology, combat trauma management, advanced airway management and military evacuation procedures. The airmen are then sent to Tucson, Arizona for hands-on medical training. Trainees work alongside paramedics with the Tucson Fire Department as well as local hospitals. Graduates of the course are awarded National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians-Paramedic (NREMT-P) certification.
Air Force Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course: 24 weeks, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
Qualifies airmen as Pararescue Recovery Specialists for assignment to any Pararescue unit worldwide. Training includes field medical care and tactics, mountaineering, combat tactics, advanced parachuting and helicopter insertion/extraction qualifications. At the completion of this course each graduate is awarded the maroon beret.
tl;dr: Sam is just as much a pro at the saving people and badassery as anyone in the Avengers and better qualified than most for the former.
And because I do stuff like this: my money where my mouth is: No Angel