There’s Something About a Man in Uniform

640px-Pararescuremen_extraction_-_081016-F-5957S-919Military romantic suspense is a wildly popular subset of romantic suspense (one of my favorites to read and write). But why are men in uniform so attractive? I know why I love them so much (especially the one I married), but I was curious what other readers thought, so I asked at a Facebook party a few months ago. Below is a list of the most common reasons the readers I chatted with cited for loving a military (or ex-military) hero:

  1. Self-sacrificing. This was number one, no contest. Apparently a brave man who’s willing to die for his beliefs and to save those he loves makes us weak in the knees like no one else. This probably also explains the popularity of other heroes in uniform like law enforcement and fire fighters.
  2. Intense/determined. Readers love a man who will stop at nothing to save the day (and the heroine). Oh, and when he turns that intense focus on her? Swoon.
  3. Honorable. A strong sense of honor and integrity is sexy as hell.
  4. Hot/muscular. Are you surprised this came in so low? As much as we enjoy the muscular physique that military training makes possible, it’s the man on the inside we really love.
  5. Loyal. A man who stands by those he cares about and keeps his word is a definite keeper.
  6. Alpha. The military is a hotbed of alpha males, and we love watching these tough guys exhibit the traits above. We love it even more when their tough exterior cracks and we see their soft heart on the inside.

I think the purest embodiment of these traits is the special forces hero. Suzanne Brockmann got romance readers lusting after Navy SEALs, first with her Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series for Silhouette Intimate Moments, and later with her single-title Troubleshooters series. After SEALs received publicity for capturing Osama Bin Laden and rescuing Captain Phillips, they became the vampires/dukes of the romantic suspense shelf.

They’re everywhere.

Occasionally the Army Delta guys or Rangers get some love too. With the possible exception of Marine Corps special operators, I think it’s the Air Force spec ops guys who are most overlooked, though that’s slowly changing.

504px-United_States_Air_Force_Pararescue_Emblem_%22That_Others_May_Live%22Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF)? Yes, they exist. In fact, they might just be the toughest SOF group out there. You’ve probably even watched a few movies that featured them—specifically pararescueman—without realizing it (Perfect Storm, Black Hawk Down). In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Steve Rogers’ new friend, Sam Wilson, is a former pararescueman, though the way they describe his mission initially makes him sound like a pilot. Even the Captain is confused.

When I first started writing military romance, I wanted to highlight the Air Force’s lesser known SOF teams, all of whom go through similar training as SEALs or Delta Force, but also require additional education for their specialty. It takes nearly two years for them to get through their training “pipeline” and be ready to join a squadron.

The Air Force has three major types of special operators.

Deliver with carePararescueman (a.k.a. PJs or pararescue jumpers). Their motto is “These things we do, that others may live,” often shortened to “That others may live.” First tasked with rescuing downed pilots in Vietnam (often under fire), they are experts at combat search and rescue: inserting into hostile territory to rescue/return American or allied servicemembers. In addition to possessing all of the skills you’d expect from a special operator—weapons training, fast-roping, static and freefall jumping, combat dive techniques—every one is a trained paramedic with the skills to handle battlefield trauma.

Above all else, their goal is to do whatever it takes to save lives. According to AirForce.com, they must be willing to “…parachute, scuba dive, rock climb or even snowmobile into hostile territory to get to a wounded Airman…”

Their original mission has expanded to include picking up NASA astronauts who return to Earth via water landing, as well as participating in civilian search and rescue operations and humanitarian missions. Since 9/11, they have participated in more than 12,000 life-saving, combat rescue missions.

Kick-ass special operators with heart? Be still mine.

512px-JTACCombat Controllers. Combat controllers are also special operators, but instead of paramedic training, they become FAA-certified air traffic controllers. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “The mission of a combat controller is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.”

So, basically, they risk their lives to set up runways, control the air traffic in their area, and call in close air support for troops under fire (i.e. direct the assets in the air to take out the enemy). These guys are serious multi-taskers.

125th_STS_SOWT_takes_weather_readings_at_Fort_CarsonSpecial Operations Weathermen. Yep, you read that right. Special operators who are also meteorologists. Who knew?

Combat weathermen, are assigned to SOF teams from all services to forecast the mission impact of the weather in the area of operation. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “They collect critical weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain data, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force members and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations.” So, brains and brawn. What’s not to love?

Want more of these Air Force heroes? Here are a few books to check out.

Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez (yes, I’m shameless!) – Hero Mick Fury is a former pararescueman (my Men of Steele series revolves around several former PJ teammates).

Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross – Features former Combat Controller Dallas O’Halloran.

Cover Me by Catherine Mann – This is the first in her Elite Force: That Others May Live series featuring active-duty PJ heroes.

Want to learn more about the real heroes who inspire us? Try one of these nonfiction books.

None Braver by Michael Hirsh

That Others May Live by Pete Nelson and Jack Brehm

Guardian Angel by William Sine

Do you like a man in uniform? What’s the draw for you?


All images were obtained via Wikimedia and are in the public domain.

 

About Gwen Hernandez

Author of SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES & the Men of Steele romantic suspense series. Manufacturing engineer turned writer. Scrivener instructor, runner, reader, explorer, Kung Fu sifu, AF spouse, mom, vegan. gwenhernandez.com

Posted on May 27, 2014, in Gwen Hernandez and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Fascinating, Gwen!!!! Thanks for sharing this info. I didn’t know half of this and my dad was in the military for over 20 years.

  2. What a great post for Memorial Day week! I’ve read all those books on your list, Gwen, and I loved them all.
    I write about Army guys because my husband served for years win the army and I respect how hard he worked and everything he gave for his unit.
    I also know he’d be upset if I wrote about naked navy men. 🙂

  3. Very interesting!

  4. Gwen, thanks for sharing all this information about Air Force SOF. So interesting. I hope you’re writing a story for that Spec Ops Weatherman–brains and brawn are an irresistible combination.

  5. Great post, Gwen. Did know about the SOF! Thanks for getting info out on these heros.

    • Thanks, Diana! Yeah, the pararescueman are starting to get more attention thanks to shows like Surviving the Cut and some Nat’l Geographic specials, but not too many people are aware of the CCTs and weathermen. Thanks for the reblog. 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on DIANA BELCHASE and commented:

    A great Memorial Day tribute by my blog mate to our Air Force Special Ops guys!

  7. GREAT photos and blog, Gwen! I agree with your list 100%, but it was still neat to see it broken down like that.

    Your command of the different operations is apparent both in this post and in your wonderful romantic suspense!

    I also come from a military background, I think we touched all bases: My Dad, was a Navy bomber (Korea) who would have stayed in the military as a career had he not been diagnosed with a blind spot in his peripheral vision. So he was honorably discharged, got his engineering degree on the GI Bill and met Mom in college. (Thank God.)

    My uncle is a WWII vet with the AF and made that his career.

    My older brother’s 18th birthday present to himself was to enlist in the Marine Reserves. Then he went through (what was then called) Green Beret training, Army Reserves and was called up in 2003 for 18 months. He’s a Major now I believe, in Afghanistan but working with the embassy in a Customs and Border Security role.

    Happy Memorial Week everyone!

  8. Heather Ashby

    AWESOME post, Gwen!!! You KNOW I love men in uniform – and out of them 🙂 Thanks for sharing all this very cool – and yet very HOT – information about some of the most challenging and dangerous jobs in the military – like the PJs!!! Write on!!!

  9. Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.

    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different
    internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

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