NEWS | Sept. 28, 2013

Firefighters from JTF-Bravo qualify for World Challenge

By Staff Sgt. Jarrod R. Chavana Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Two Joint Task Force-Bravo firefighters from 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Department have qualified for the 2013 Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Challenge XXII in Las Vegas, NV October 22-27.

The competition seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession's rigors to the public. Wearing "full bunker gear" and the SCOTT 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 course was created to simulate the trials a firefighter would endure while fighting a 60 minute fire," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Phillip Washburn, 612th ABS firefighter. "The biggest difference here is you have to complete the challenge in under two-minutes, while wearing more than 75 pounds of gear, so it's mentally and physically tasking."

The world challenge consists of more than 500 firefighters from 15 countries such as the U.S, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, and Slovenia. Training for this challenge while out of their elements has been challenging and they've had to overcome.

"I don't have access to all the equipment I need to train, so I've had to improvise," said Washburn. "The fire department as well as the base have been very supportive and have helped me train. I've been able to use the flight tower at times to simulate the six-story tower and additional firefighters have worked out with me."

One of Washburn's fellow JTF-Bravo firefighters was granted a waiver to compete in this year's World Challenge.

"I used to be a heavy smoker," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Kehoe, the 612th ABS non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of logistics. "The first time I completed the course, I quit. Running up and down stairs, pulling fire-hoses filled with sand and dragging a 175-pound dummy drains you."

Washburn and Kehoe work out twice a day, six days a week to keep in shape and perform various exercise to maintain their cardio such as flipping or hitting a more than 400 pound tire with a sledge hammer, dragging a weighted sled or jumping over a bicycle stand.

"The good thing about this sport is if you have ever been competitive in a sport, no one wants to give up their secrets, but in this we are all firemen and the brotherhood just carries across the board," said Washburn. "The competitors are willing to make you better and I've been able to make lasting friendships."