Spangdahlem, Ramstein Airmen compete in Szczecin firefighter combat challenge

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Spangdahlem and Ramstein firefighter combat challenge teams participated in the annual Szczecin Firefighter Combat Challenge in Poland Aug. 9-10, 2013.

The Szczecin Firefighter Combat Challenge is an event where firefighters from the international community come to compete in a simulated firefighter scenario-based obstacle course consisting of five stages: carrying equipment up a three-story tower, pulling up a weight on the tower, break in task which uses a Keiser force machine, fire hose retrieval and last is the evacuation of an injured.

This is team Spangdahlem's second time participating in the Szczecin event.

"We compete in different obstacles simulating real firefighter scenarios that happen every day on the job," said Gerd Mueller, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter crew chief from Gransdorf, Germany. "Simulating an actual fire, we run up the stairs with a hose, we hoist tools up to the tower, we use the Keiser force machine -- which is a forcible entry simulator -- and then we run to grab another hose to fight a fire. The final task is the victim rescue, a 175-pound mannequin that we carry more than 30 meters, which is pretty tough."

The course is run in full firefighter protective gear which can add up to an additional 50 pounds of weight for each competitor.

"Usually we do individual races, tandem races and relay races," said Mueller. "The individual race is the hardest one, you do the whole course by yourself in full gear."

The competitions are funded with the teams' own money, and they use their own leave to be able to go to these competitions. As such, and the team is always accepting donations to allow it to represent the Sabers.

Training for such events requires a considerable amount of dedication and competitiveness.

"Personally, I train six days a week, I do cross fit, run stairs at the fire station, pull hose, weight lifting, and our team runs the actual course three times a week ... these competitions are very demanding on your body," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsales, 52nd CES firefighter.

This was Gonsales' third time competing in a firefighter challenge in Europe.

"I enter these competitions to challenge myself with something new, make new friends," said the Savannah, Ga., native. "This is a great community of people to compete against and hang out with. It's an honor to be able to go out and represent the United States Air Force at these events."

Mueller challenges his fellow firefighters and encourages them to participate in the firefighter challenges across Europe.

"Usually these guys are here for two maybe four years," Mueller said. "It's a great opportunity for them to travel to different countries and meet different people. I've been doing it for a couple years now, and I have met so many great people. I'm making friends for life."

This was U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Weeks, 52nd CES firefighter from Green Bay, Wis., first firefighter combat challenge competition.

"I decided to enter this challenge because I thought it was really cool that we do our job competitively, competing against firefighters all over Europe, Asia and the United States," Weeks said. "I also wanted to strengthen my career, work out with the guys, and compete in all these competitions. This helps us as firefighters, because not that many people can go to Poland or France or Slovenia to compete in something like this."

Weeks reflected on his performance this past weekend.

"The individual race was pretty hard -- I'm not the strongest guy -- the hardest part was at the end the dummy drag, I felt it slipping out of my hands, I made fists and just told myself , 'don't let go!'"

Mueller, Gonsales, Weeks and a guest participant Andreas Schroder, Lemgo Fire Brigade, lead fire inspector from Lemgo, Germany, represented the Spangdahlem team.

An awards ceremony ended the two-day event. Mueller took home the first-place trophy in the 40-50 age categories.

"I am proud," he said. "I not only represent (Germany) and the United States, I also represent our job and that's what is most important to me. I'm proud representing Spangdahlem fire department."