Air Force firefighters aim for the gold

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Air Force firefighters are competing on the world stage this week at the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XX here.

The competition, which began Nov. 14 and continues through Nov. 19, tests firefighters' skill, fitness, grit and teamwork against the clock.

A number of Air Force teams are competing, including teams from F.E Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. There are also teams from Canadian Forces and a joint team from U.S. Air Forces in Europe; the latter includes firefighters from Spangdahlem AB, Ramstein AB, Germany, and Aviano AB, Italy, and one former USAFE firefighter now stationed at Shaw AFB. Also competing are several teams from the Air Force Academy, including a combined team from the Colorado Springs, Colo., and Air Force Academy fire departments.

Air Force teams have been strong contenders in recent years, with several world titles and world records won in the past three years by teams from the Air Force Academy, including the 2009 and 2010 women's team trophy.

But trophies aren't the real benefit of training for and competing in the firefighter combat challenge, said Air Force Academy fire chief Ernst Piercy.

"The firefighter combat challenge brings me three things," Piercy said. "First and foremost, it provides an opportunity for our firefighters to get into superb physical condition. So that's a fantastic and superb benefit.

The second benefit of the competition is that each event actually simulates a firefighting activity, from hoisting and dragging hoses to chopping a door open to rescuing a victim, he added. Firefighters are expected to do all of these things on a fire ground.

"The third thing is how tight-knit the group becomes and the phenomenal teamwork it brings," Piercy said. "It's not just the firefighters who are competing, but also back at the fire stations. They're watching this live on the internet as its streaming, and they're texting us back saying how great we're doing.

"The synergy that it's really brought to our organization is fantastic," he added.