In 2007, the US Air Force began to explore the possibility of applying emotional intelligence (EI) to predict performance in training programs for pilots, air traffic controllers and pararescue jumpers (“PJs” — who’s mission is to rescue downed aircrew). The PJ program was one of their top priorities. This training program takes nearly two years to complete and includes many hours of combat training, parachuting, diving, paramedical instruction as well as extensive air rescue and evacuation preparation. The total cost of completing the training is estimated at $250,000 per trainee.

The Air Force’s aim was to apply the Bar-On EQ-i to assess EI and identify those PJ trainees who have the best chance of successfully completing this highly specialized military course. All of the trainees who began the 2008 course completed the Bar-On EQ-i, and the results of those who successfully completed the program were compared with those who did not complete it.

The results revealed that EI has a significant impact on performance among PJ trainees and is capable of predicting who will be expected to successfully complete this course. The findings indicate that candidates with five key emotional intelligence qualities have the best chance of successfully completing this extremely demanding course, namely:

(a) have good self-awareness and understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths,

(b) can effectively validate their feelings and keep things in correct perspective,

(c) are flexible and adaptive,

(d) are optimistic and

(e) positive

The results confirm previous research findings indicating that EI significantly impacts occupational performance. By applying the EI model that emerged, the Air Force estimates that it will save approximately $190,000,000 by significantly reducing mismatches and selecting the right people for the course over time.

These results were first reported in the 07/21/2010 edition of the EI Insider and provided by Dr. Reuven Bar-On.  A preliminary report is available online. This study was conducted with MHS (Toronto).

Images courtesy of the Pararescue Jumpers photo archive.

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