California Crew Wins World Firefighter Combat Challenge

Updated: 11-15-2006 03:16:24 PM

Courtesy of United States Airforce

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- Not even a rain-slick course could stop Travis AFB firefighters from winning a third consecutive World Firefighter Combat Challenge held Nov. 7 to 11 in Henderson, Nev.

The challenge, which attracted hundreds of U.S. and Canadian municipal fire departments from more than 25 locations, encouraged firefighter fitness and demonstrated the profession's rigors to the public.

During the competition, firefighters performed five tasks including climbing a five-story tower, hoisting and chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound "victim" -- all while racing against themselves, an opponent and the clock. In addition, participants must wear full-bunker gear, including an air-breathing apparatus.

The course showcases skills firefighters use in real-life rescue situations. It also helps firefighters become more aware of their own conditioning level and ability.

"It was the toughest dog fight I ever saw and the team rose to the occasion," said John Speakman, Travis AFB fire chief.

"Our relay team competed six times on Friday and had no drama until the fifth run," Mr. Speakman said. "We were competing against Miami Dade during the tower portion and (Tech. Sgt.) Mike Melton had a one-second lead."

It was at that crucial point, when Sergeant Melton slipped and his flashlight fell from his hand, said Mr. Speakman.

"He couldn't find the flashlight right away in the dark and Miami Dade jumped ahead by a wide margin," he said.

The Travis AFB team made up some time during the dummy drag when Staff Sgt. Harry Myers, using a last-minute burst of speed and energy, overtook the Miami Dade competitor and won the relay.

"Harry poured it on and what might have been an easy race for the (Miami Dade) competitor became a true race," Mr. Speakman said.

In other challenge competitions, team members Shenah Groom and Adam Groom earned third place honors in the team tandem event; Sergeants Melton and Myers placed third and eighth, respectively, in the overall male division.

Although Travis AFB won the team portion of the challenge with a time of 4 minutes and 37.8 seconds, the competition and Mother Nature did not make it easy.

"The team event was on a cold day and there was even some drizzle towards the end," Mr. Speakman said. "When I arrived to watch the final day of competition, I received the bad news (Senior Airman) Joe Almony had slipped and broken his hand."

"We focus on being one team, one fight and used that to overcome our obstacles," Mr. Speakman said. "The team has always been challenged by the highest level of competition at the event."

"This is yet another Team Travis success story involving active duty, Reserve and civilian (members) and epitomizes the 'One team, one fight' concept," said Col. Steve Arquiette, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander. "The fact that this is a three-peat for our firefighters just demonstrates how committed to excellence they are."

Travis AFB firefighters in the competition were Sergeant Melton, Sergeant Myers, Ms. Groom, Mr. Groom, Dave Chiodo, Aldrico Caragan and Joey Dominguez.
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Vaughn
Members of the Team Travis Firefighter Combat Challenge Team race against the clock during the "dummy drag" portion of the competition.