Five Sheppard Firefighters to compete in worldwide fire challenge

Fire Captain Mark Deboe and Firefighters Milo Gardea, Matthew Rader, Mark Veenstra and Francisco Garibaldi, hold their championship finalist flag after competing in the regional Firefighter Combat Challenge in Sulphur Springs, Texas, Aug. 12-13, 2016. Their five-man team finished the competition with a time of 1:41 in the relay elimination challenge,qualifying them to participate in the worldwide Firefighter Combat Challenge event in Montgomery, Alabama, from Oct. 24-29, 2016. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Mark Deboe)

Fire Captain Mark Deboe and Firefighters Milo Gardea, Matthew Rader, Mark Veenstra and Francisco Garibaldi, hold their championship finalist flag after competing in the regional Firefighter Combat Challenge in Sulphur Springs, Texas, Aug. 12-13, 2016. Their five-man team finished the competition with a time of 1:41 in the relay elimination challenge,qualifying them to participate in the worldwide Firefighter Combat Challenge event in Montgomery, Alabama, from Oct. 24-29, 2016. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Mark Deboe)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

A Sheppard five-man firefighter team earned their place at the worldwide Firefighter Combat Challenge in a regional competition Aug. 12-13, 2016.

Fire Captain Mark Deboe and Firefighters Milo Gardea, Matthew Rader, Mark Veenstra and Francisco Garibaldi, competed in the regional Firefighter Challenge in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

The challenge consisted of climbing a 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound mannequin as they race against the clock which tested the overall dexterity, fortitude and willpower of the competitors.

According to the Firefighter Combat Challenge website, each year this challenge has attracted people from all over the world to compete and is now expanding to countries like Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa. Their goal is to encourage firefighter fitness and display the profession’s rigorous tasks and encounters to the public.

Historically the challenge dates back to 1976 when a criterion task test was employing five commonly performed or highly critical fireground evolutions. In 1991 that test turned into the challenge we have today. After all testing, the results of the laboratory fitness measures were statistically correlated against the performances. This landmark study demonstrated a high correlation between personal fitness and job performance.

“This competition involves challenges similar to that we face in our job, but at a faster pace,” said David Mounsey, 82nd Civil Engineering Squadron fire chief. “You've really got to be at the top of your game to compete. It requires you to be physically fit and these guys have been preparing themselves for months.”

Sheppard’s team lined up at the start of the challenge at the base of a tower, where they carried a 42-pound hose load and cover to the top and deposited it into a container. They then hoisted a 42-pound donut roll hose to the top of the tower and deposit into a container after clearing the railing at the top. Once finished, competitors used a Keiser Force Machine, a chopping simulator, to drive a 160-pound sled a distance of five feet using a 4-kilogram mallet and would progress to the hose advance. The next task involved navigating a 140-foot slalom course, dragging a charged hose a distance of 75 feet and eliminating targets with the water stream. Lastly, competitors lifted and dragged a 175-pound mannequin backwards a distance of 106 feet.

At any time, competitors may incur penalties that add to their course completion time. Some of these penalties include 10 seconds for failure to advance the hose 75 feet, five seconds per misstrike on the Keiser Force Machine or 10 seconds for standing on the hose pack.

Three of Sheppard’s firefighters competed individually in this challenge finishing with times of 2:41 for Deboe, 3:43 for Garibaldi and 3:20 for Veenstra.

Veenstra also participated in a tandem with another firefighter at the event, finishing with a time of 2:08. Together, their five-man team finished with a time of 1:41 in the relay elimination challenge, qualifying them to participate in the worldwide Firefighter Combat Challenge event in Montgomery, Alabama, from Oct. 24-29, 2016.

“It was an awesome experience,” Deboe said. “The challenge was hard, but we enjoyed it. It was fun and exciting and there was a lot of adrenaline. We feel really good about qualifying for the worldwide event, which is our second year being able to qualify. As a team, we are getting better year-by-year and bettered our time by 10 seconds.”

As a means of celebration, Sheppard’s fire department plans to host a burger-burn in mid to late September which will help fund their trip to the competition.

“This is an international competition,” Mounsey said. “There are some DoD organizations that participate, but I think it’s a great way to promote the Air Force and what we have to offer. It’s a tough competition, so to be able to compete in an international event is a huge honor. I’m proud of our team and I look forward to them bringing home the gold.”

The Sheppard fire department has historically supported sending firefighters to this competition by hosting various events, like the burger burn, to help fund their trip which is paid out of pocket by those who participate. Their team has also established a “go fund me” page to help offset their costs to travel and participate in the international competition.

To learn more about the Firefighter Combat Challenge, visit their website at www.firefighterchallenge.com/ or their blog http://firefighterchallenge.blogspot.com/. You can also stay updated with the Sheppard fire department by visiting their public Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/135180771210.