Air Force Master Sgt. Jose Cervantes: I was originally born Houston, TX, and at nine years old, my father and me and my sister, we moved out to the West Coast. And I grew up in Bakersfield, CA, which is about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, little farming town. Growing up, I was -- I think I was a pretty regular kid. I liked to play sports. I liked doing things that were kind of oriented to the outdoors.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I watched about a 40-minute special on pararescue. And, you know, interesting things, like, the fact that there was only several hundred of them, where the Navy SEALs, there's several thousand of them. And so the next day, I went to the Air Force recruiting office, and I asked, "What are the steps that I have to take to get in the Air Force and pursue this pararescue thing?" My class ended up graduating seven out of 96 candidates, and I was one of them.
Becoming a pararescueman takes a certain type of individual. It takes someone who is very determined, they have to be confident, they have to have a never-quit attitude. Pararescueman conduct personnel recovery operations for the United States Air Force. We're the only asset within the Department of Defense with specifically trained resource and equip to conduct personnel recovery. You're being asked to recover anyone at any time, no matter what the situation is. It could entail going into a hostile area to pull out that one pilot with numerous enemy fighters. It does take a certain level of toughness.
I think one of the most memorable operations that I was involved in was Joint Task Force Katrina. Being able to respond only 14 hours after the eye of the hurricane passed, I think the first night, we did over 200 rescues. Just being able to go there and help those folks, I think that was probably the most memorable thing that I've done as a pararescueman.
I've been to, [you know], over 25 countries. I've gotten to jump out of aircraft over the coast of Chile and seen the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I've dove off the Western Coast of Africa.
For me, it's really about the people that I work with and my commitment to them, my commitment to train those that are coming after me to replace me, the sense of a brotherhood that I have in pararescue. Those are the things that have really drawn me back to reenlisting. I knew that I'd chosen something special, something that was going to make a direct impact on our nation. And I knew I was going to help people on a daily basis.