When a soldier is down and time is running out, an elite unit of Air Force rescue warriors will risk their own lives to rescue those injured and clinging to life. In Afghanistan and around the world, pararescuemen or PJs; their leaders, Combat Rescue officers; and their Pave Hawk helicopter teammates fly into the heat of battle, often facing imminent enemy threats, to save the critically wounded. They're part warrior, part guardian angel, part medic and ALL hero.
Now, for the first time in history, the United States Air Force is allowing cameras to follow these highly skilled airmen, with advanced medical training, to war. From the network that brought viewers the award-winning documentary Restrepo as well as Inside the Green Berets, the National Geographic Channel joins these guardian angels on the front lines during a four-month deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The series takes viewers inside the harrowing world of the brave airmen who put their lives on the line so, as their motto says, "that others may live." From heroic acts of bravery in the field to training, pranks and comradery back at base, the series offers a 360-degree view of this band of brothers.
Ready to respond at a moment's notice, PJs and their rescue teammates race against time to save Americans, coalition forces, Afghan allies and even local Afghan families caught in the crossfire within the "golden hour," the critical first hour that's often the difference between life and death.
NGC cameras witness every heart-pounding step of the mission: from the moment real-time intel of the wounded streams into the operations center, and the PJs "scramble" to launch within minutes of the call; as they take on enemy fire and land in areas with heavy insurgent activity; while they rush to stop an amputee from bleeding out during air transport and then download the surgical staff at the nearest hospital; to the debrief back at base.
With strategically placed cameras on airmen's helmets and more than 40 cameras mounted both inside and outside of the Air Force's HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, NGC joins more than two dozen active missions, capturing each heart-pounding, unfiltered moment of war as never before.
See PJs performing advanced medical procedures in the cramped confines of a helicopter flying at full throttle. Watch as pilots, surrounded by gunshots and explosions, fly fast and low to evade Taliban gunners and possible rocket launchers. Feel the pain and raw emotion of an injured soldier holding on to life after stepping on an improvised explosive device (IED).
Back at base, brighter moments shed light on the personal side of these soldiers. Water-balloon pranks, Star Wars sheets that bring a reminder of home and a remote-controlled helicopter help these men decompress from the horrors they witness and prepare for the next mission. Heartfelt Skype sessions with family members and care packages from home remind them what they are fighting for.
One airman or PJ, Trevor, on his third deployment, writes in his journal, "I hope in the coming months, we'll continue to get chances to make a difference. I hope that when someone is out there, on the ground, having the worst day of their life, we can make sure they get the chance to return home safely. That's what it's all about. That's what we live for."
Created in the 1940s as a unit dedicated to rescuing downed airmen in combat, today the PJs' role has expanded to include saving both military and civilians in both combat situations and natural disasters. PJs have saved more than 12,000 people since September 11, 2001, including 4,000 during Hurricane Katrina's aftermath; now, they continue to change the landscape of the war in Afghanistan, making sure the wounded come home alive.
The series presents an intimate, never-before-seen portrait of the heroic and selfless efforts of a group of men risking their lives to save those fighting for our freedom.
"Inside Combat Rescue" is produced for National Geographic Channel by National Geographic Television. For National Geographic Television, series producer is Jared McGilliard, supervising producer/editor is John Collin Jr., and executive producers are Ted Duvall and Jerry Decker. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Richard Wells, vice president of production and development is Charlie Parsons, executive vice president of programming is Michael Cascio and president is Howard T. Owens.