SGPT Interviews US Air Force PJ “Jbird McD”

SGPT: Tell us about yourself?

JBM: Jeremy 36 years old, born and raised in Cypress, TX.  I was a life long swimmer, went on to swim at the University of Tennessee and represented the USA at international level competition.  Assisted in the coaching of Olympic level athletes with some of the programs I represented after college.  Following my swimming and coaching career, I went on to join the USAF as a PJ, with multiple deployments, over 250 combat missions and NASA support operations.

SGPT: What influenced you to want to join the AirForce ParaRescue “PJ’s”?

JBM: My father was a Navy Pilot in Vietnam and my brother in law was a Navy SEAL LCDR.  After many discussions with them, exhaustive research and some true soul searching, I arrived at the conclusion that high risk rescue work was really what I had always wanted to do.  The concept of putting my life on the line, to save other operators, was about as rewarding and honorable endeavor as I could imagine.  Given the mortality, at which all special operations groups operate, I could accept any fate that occurred under this mission set.

SGPT: When did you go through training? What was the hardest part for you?

JBM: I went though the Pararescue Indoctrination Course in 2006.  From a physical perspective the running and land based “training evolutions”, were the most challenging.  Im a bigger guy and had always been a sprinter, so the concept of regularly logging double digit miles in a day, was a challenge and stressful on my body.  I developed shin splits so badly that I would be on crutches all weekend, i had to consume 2400mg of Ibuprofen daily, then play healthy for the training week to avoid a med eval.

SGPT: Were you an athlete growing up? How did you train before going to PJ school?

JBM: The swimming background was a huge asset, at arguably the most challenging water based selection course in the DoD.  However, its not a pass on the course by any stretch, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, which will be highlighted during selection.  My training objective leading into Indoc, was to do exhaustive research, get advice from everyone who had experienced something similar, read every book I could get my hands on, over estimate the challenges that lay before me, focus on my objective weaknesses, get comfortable being uncomfortable and train my fucking ass off.  So, for 6 months, thats all I did. Eat, sleep and breathe over preparation.

At 25, I moved home to live with my parents again (sad), joined running groups, started doing CF in 2004, busted out cals everyday, hit the pool, trained with the same equipment I would be issued at Indoc, drove out to the Indoc course in San Antonio, to watch a training day and meet cadre (awkward).  I made sure I could meet or exceed graduation standards in everything before I left for Basic.  You only get one chance at a first impression, and if you show up underprepared, it speaks volumes about your character and how seriously you take the opportunity before you. I was not going to be THAT guy.

SGPT: If you were to give a young trainee advice on going to become a PJ – what would it be?

JBM: Pool work, stay humble and over preparation.
If you’re uneasy practicing water con on your own at the YMCA, imagine what it will be like after 24 hours of getting your ass kicked and 2 or 3 200#+ cadre putting you through a buddy breathing wash cycle, with a blacked out mask and weight belt. Its all mental, if you can remain calm in that situation, it will also translate well to the battlefield.
Remember, the loudest guy in the room, is often the weakest.  Always remain humble and professional, allow your performances to speak for themselves. Put your team before yourself.  Inspire your team to uphold these principals and it will make life a lot easier on you guys!

There are a multitude of resources available these days to assist with information sharing, training groups, program design, administrative questions, etc.  You should do all the preparation I listed above and more.  The only way to prepare, is to over prepare.

SGPT: What would you do differently if you had to do the training all over again?

JBM: I would of done a better job of documenting my experiences. 10+ years removed from that training, I would like to have a bit better clarity of those experiences.

SGPT: What about the pool drills? Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JBM: Buddy breathing, mask and snorkel recovery, under waters, knots, ditch and don, drown proofing, etc.  It all comes down to accepting your fate and focusing on the task at hand.  My mindset was always, “I’m either going to accomplish this task or pass out trying.”  Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

As I mentioned before, the ability to combat the natural anxiety that comes along with lack of O2, is a mental fortitude skill, that has infinite application on the battlefield and the civilian world. You MUST become efficient in the pool.  Without an aquatic background, I recommend getting a coach to assist with technique improvement.

SGPT: Where did you serve as a PJ?  What was the funniest thing that ever happened to your guys?

JBM: I was stationed at DMAFB in Tucson, AZ and had multiple deployments to Afghanistan and France (NASA TAL mission).
Without putting my boys on blast, we will keep it PG.  We would play “hide the mouse trap” game on deployments, which was always a good time.  Hiding traps in unsuspecting, yet commonly touched locations: door knobs, helmets, gloves, TP dispensers, helicopters, etc.  You get the picture.

SGPT: What are you up to these days?

JBM: Family man. Beautiful wife and 2 young boys, living the dream in the mountains of western NC.  We own and operate 3 Crossfit Gyms and SOF WODs.  Since 2010 SOF WODs has been providing custom program design for operators, candidates, training units, high level CF athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, etc.
We also occasionally run a desirable on site training Academy, for SOF hopefuls, next class Nov 18-20, in Asheville, NC.

SGPT: What book are you reading now?

JBM: Dude, I’m an exercise physiology nerd.  Super Training by: Verkhoshansky, is always floating around. Documenting decades of cold war era soviet training knowledge bombs & Hybrid Athlete by: Alex Viada

SGPT: Thanks so much for the interview, we really appreciate it.

JBM: Absolutely Brad, hopefully the next generation of SOF hopefuls find some of this content useful on their journey. NFQ.

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