A team of firefighters with the White Sands Missile Range Fire Department trained hard to bring home medals during the Firefighter Combat Challenge in Arlington, Texas, Aug. 29 and 30 and then again in Carlsbad, New Mexico Sept. 26 and 27. The team, who was competing for the first time as a trained team, did a great job at both competitions.
“We had great support from our management, which allowed us to train as a team and better prepare for the event,” said Firefighter Bill Dempsey. “We truly appreciate their support.”
Dempsey said the WSMR team was one of the fastest DoD teams at the competition, finishing at 1 minute 39 seconds.
The Arlington, Texas team consisted of: Firefighter Bill Dempsey, Lt. Jordan Medina, Firefighter Adan Fabela, Firefighter Kevin Ward, Firefighter Dan Tate, Capt. Alfred Myers and Firefighter Ignacio Perez.
Dempsey said their biggest challenge had been scheduling, but with support from management they were able to make training a possibility and participate in the events.
Team members competed in both the team competition, the tandem and individual competitions.
“This year we’ve been able to commit and dedicate time to training,” Dempsey said.
According to the website information, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, which attracts hundreds of U.S. and Canadian municipal fire departments at more than 25 locations, seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to the public. Wearing “full bunker gear” and the Scott 5.5 Air-Pak breathing apparatus, 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-sized, 175 lb. “victim” as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock.
The Challenge was born the day that Chief David Gratz, Director of Fire/Rescue Services, Montgomery County, Maryland, walked into the Human Performance Laboratory at the Sports Medicine Center of the University of Maryland in July, 1974. He needed a validated test. The mission: develop a physical ability test to determine whether a job applicant had the requisite capabilities to perform the essential job functions of a firefighter.
In 1991, Dr. Davis hit upon an idea that would eventually become the Challenge. He had observed the competitive nature of firefighters during the initial testing back in 1976. So, he thought, “why not devise a competition that would highlight the unique nature of the fire service and showcase the talents and capabilities of firefighters.” The CTT seemed the perfect “vehicle” for the task. The first competition was held on May 5, 1991.
Dempsey said the challenge simulates their day to day work to include the level of physical conditioning.
At their first training round the team did the course in 3 minutes. During one of their final training sessions before heading to Arlington, Texas, the team completed the course in 1 minute 29 seconds.
According to Dempsey, one of the things that made a big difference in their time was perfecting the baton hand off.
“This was a good opportunity for us to learn the course and get a feel for the competition itself,” Dempsey said. “It helped us target the areas we need to work on while taking time to socialize with our fellow firefighters.”
Dempsey said the course gives them a better awareness of their physical capabilities and encourages better physical fitness so that when they get that call they can perform to the best of their abilities.
“We will keep training and remember why we do it.”
Dempsey said one thing that stands out during the competition is the comradery. “Even when everyone is trying to do their best to win they are more than willing to offer advice. They are all there encouraging you and pushing you to do your best.”
Next for the team is to continue to work and train and start bringing back medals for WSMR.