VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Nine Team V firefighters recently attended the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge held in Reno, Nev. during the first week of October.
The Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge originated as a university-based occupational health research study, and has since become an international televised sporting event. Firefighters from around the world compete for the best times in five events that are essential to structural firefighting.
This year the team from Vandenberg was the largest it has been, sporting six military and three civilian firefighters. It was also the first time many of them competed, and although the team didn’t do as well as they would have liked overall, Senior Airman Adam Schaefer, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire engineer, managed to snag the ‘Greenhorn’ award which is awarded for the fastest time amongst the first year competitors.
“The Competition starts out at the bottom of the tower,” said Schaefer. “Then you grab a 42 pound hose-pack and carry that six flights to the top, drop it, hoist a rope connected to another 42 pound hose-pack up to the top of the tower, and then run back down the stairs. Next event is the Keiser sled which simulates forcible entry, after that you run through a cone course, grab another hose, run back the length of the cone course through a set of swinging doors and spray a target. After that you grab a 175-pound dummy and drag him back 75-feet to the finish line. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. When I dropped the dummy I couldn’t keep my eyes open, my teammates had to help me to the tent. My goal was to break two minutes, and I missed that goal by a few seconds but I really can’t be too upset about it.”
The two-minute event takes months of preparation by the competitors, averaging 12 hours of training per week for months in advance.
“It’s great to have nine guys in the department with that common goal,” said Schaefer. “The training was the best part, the whole 10 months leading up to the competition was great. The biggest benefit was having that drive to stay in shape, one of the leading causes of death in our career field is heart attacks and strokes. At any time our job could demand we complete any of those tasks with real consequences.”
The team takes their often hectic and unpredictable schedules in stride, making time when they can to meet up and train.
“One of our biggest challenges to overcome is our workload here,” said Lamont Brown, 30th CES fire engineer. “California is known for its wildland fires and with the recent fires on base we had to skip our practices and focus on the mission. It goes without question that wildland firefighting is more important, so we just have to find time when we can. Our workload is larger than a lot of other competitive teams so we look at that as part of the challenge to overcome instead of letting that discourage us.”
The next bout of training for the team will start midwinter with Brown already recruiting new members.
“I was very excited about the team’s overall output and effort and I am happy with how things turned out overall,” said Brown. “We had some high expectations this year, and we didn’t quite hit those marks but that is just how it goes. We aim as high as we can and if we don’t hit those marks we regroup and try again.”