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Vandenberg firefighters train for Combat Challenge

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Andrew Klein, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, drags a 175-pound dummy during training July 29 here in preparation for the Firefighter Combat Challenge in October. Pairs of competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks including climbing the 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-size, 175-pound "victim" as they race against their opponents and the clock. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Andrew Klein, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, drags a 175-pound dummy during training July 29 here in preparation for the Firefighter Combat Challenge in October. Pairs of competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks including climbing the 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-size, 175-pound "victim" as they race against their opponents and the clock. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Seven of Vandenberg's firefighters are currently in training here to compete in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 2 in Reno, Nev.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is a competition in which firefighters from around the globe compete against the clock and their opponents through an intense and physically demanding obstacle course. During the challenge, firefighters must complete a number of tasks, including climbing a five-story tower, rescuing a life-sized victim weighing 175 pounds and dragging hoses - all while wearing full bunker gear and a breathing apparatus.

The challenge is designed to test and encourage firefighters to reach higher levels of physical fitness and readiness standards.

"We are constantly training for the competition," said Erin Butler, a 30th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter. "We try to incorporate some element of the challenge into each of our physical training sessions every shift. Even off-duty, we'll work out just to stay in shape."

Although training for any competition can be tough, the Vandenberg firefighters have upped the ante of training for the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

"To make workouts even more demanding and realistic, we always train while wearing our breathing apparatuses," said Emanuel Villegas, a 30th CES firefighter. "We cater our workouts to simulate the same tasks we will be facing at the competition. We are working hard, not only to build strength, but our endurance too."

The firefighters are beginning to see the training paying off in areas outside of the competition.

"The training can become repetitive at times, but this training prepares our firefighters to react quickly on the job, as well as during the competition," Mr. Villegas said. "For instance, if we arrive at a scene of a fire and have to climb five flights of stairs, we can just react because we have the confidence of all the training we have put in."

Being able to quickly react to an emergency situation is essential for firefighters.

"This training is important because it mirrors the type of activities our job entails," said Matthew Stevens, a 30th CES firefighter. "It really gives us a good target to aim for in our typical, everyday jobs as firefighters."

The Vandenberg firefighters have set certain expectations they wish to accomplish at the competition. The team's expectation for the team relay is to shave 20 seconds off of their previous record time of 1 minute, 32 seconds. For the individual goals, the team would like for the males to finish the course in less than two minutes and the females under four minutes.

"Our team goals are set at a level that is difficult, but not out of our reach," Mr. Villegas said.

The goals are attainable because of the support the team is receiving from Vandenberg.

"This base and the fire department here have always been focused on physical fitness," Mr. Villegas said. "We feel that with this support, our firefighters have limitless potential."