FLORENCE, Ariz. (AFNS) — It takes countless years of education, multiple deployments and temporary duty assignments to become a pararescue team leader.

The 68th Rescue Flight recently implemented the Combat Leaders Course, a 65-day course for 10 pararescuemen in which they develop their leadership abilities while obtaining their 7-level certification.

The 68th RQF created the course, with Air Combat Command guidance, not only to standardize the way team leaders were trained but also to provide the Air Force with a center of excellence that is solely dedicated to supporting the guardian angel weapon system’s training and operational requirements. Guardian angel is comprised of combat rescue officers; pararescuemen; survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists; and specially trained support personnel dedicated to one of the Air Force’s primary functions of personnel recovery and combat search and rescue.

“Historically, guardian angel units were forced to conduct upgrade training internally,” said Capt. Michael Ellingsen, the 68th RQF commander. “The 48th Rescue Squadron had their own method of training their team leaders, while the 58th RQS at Nellis (Air Force Base, Nevada), and the 38th RQS out at Moody (AFB, Georgia), also had theirs. They’re all trained independently and to different standards, whereas now the process is more efficient and effective for the entire weapon system as a whole.

“The thought process behind CLC was to identify what unique skill sets do we want our future team leaders and pararescuemen to possess, and what capability do we want them to provide to the squadron commanders and the combatant commanders downrange,” Ellingsen continued.

The 10 students brought diversity to the course as they represented seven different major commands displaying a multitude of backgrounds and experiences. The knowledge and skills they learned during the course and from each other will be used in a variety of combat operations around the world.

The students planned their missions and executed a multitude of scenarios, including a jump mission with an overland movement, a mass casualty, and a technical rescue with the rotary wing exfiltration, all within the climates of southern Arizona and California. Aside from daily course tasks, peer performance feedbacks and intelligence briefings were included as well.

“The environment – it’s like they’re downrange,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Chubb, the 68th RQF NCO in charge of intelligence analysis. “There’s a lot of helicopter landing zones that the guys can actually use and implement. (There are) a lot of things for them to do (during) their training and it’s away from everybody. So, if they want to do things like a real-life convoy or an improvised explosive device explosion, they can do that.”

The current class is the third iteration of pararescuemen to take on the course.

“This unit is unique in the fact that it’s the first of its kind to be implemented in the Air Force,” Ellingsen said. “We’re not a traditional rescue squadron in the sense that we support deployment taskings. This unit provides a specific operational capability for the guardian angel weapon system in order to support the combatant commanders.”