Team KMC: Firefighters take part in Combat Challenge

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Her eyes were closed as she imagined the upcoming challenge, attempting to take deep breaths in the mask that could potentially save her life.

Going through each and every step of the course, she visualized what needed to be done in her head and took another set of deep breaths.

When she came to the end of the course in her head, she opened her eyes, took a breath and waited. A siren sounded and the Firefighter Combat Challenge had begun for Airman 1st Class Jessica Clasen, 886th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter.

“I try to visualize the course ahead and focus on what needs to be done,” Clasen said.

The 886th CES firefighters have put together a team of six Airmen, five male and one female, to compete against firefighters from around the world in the Firefighter Combat Challenge, said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Noah, 886th CES crew chief and head team member.

What exactly is a Firefighter Combat Challenge?

The Sports Medicine Center of the University of Maryland created a five-event challenge in 1975 to test and gauge the physical demands of a firefighter.
May 1991 was the first challenge, which started as a test and evolved into a sport for firefighters all around the world to participate in.

To win the challenge, participants must complete several events with the fastest time.

The first event is a five-story stairwell sprint. Participants must climb a tower carrying a bag with a hose. Once firefighters get to the top of the tower they must place the bag in a specific location.

Once at the top of the tower the contestant starts the second event — a hose hoist. They must hoist a donut roll of hose to the top and place it in a specified area. Once that is done, participants climb down the tower, ensuring every step is touched.

Forcible entry is the third event. The Keiser Force Machine is utilized to simulate a forcible entry by hitting a mallet against a sled, driving it along a 160-pound steel beam.

Next up, competitors drag a fire hose filled with water 75 feet and shoot the water at a target.

The last event is the victim rescue. Participants must drag a 175-pound mannequin backward 106 feet. The time then stops when the competitor and the mannequin completely cross the finish line.

Individual world record times are 1:19.02 for males and 1:48.41 for females.
In preparation for the events, Team KMC/Ramstein trains rigorously, Noah said.

“We train about four to six days a week,” he said. “We do weight lifting, cross-fit training, anaerobic exercise and competition specific training where we run through the course. Over the eight years I have been doing this challenge, this year we are training better, resting better and learning a lot from previous years.”

Keeping motivated during training helps, Noah said.

“I’ve played sports all my life,” Clasen said. “However, this is harder as far as training goes. I just take things one step at a time and work on perfecting my technique.”

Combat Challenges are held all around the world.

“We just had a competition in France,” Noah said. “We had one team member place second overall out of 93 participants. Airman Clasen placed second out of five in the female division, and our relay team placed first out of 19 teams. Our next
competition is a two-day event in Poland.”

Being in competitions around the world gives the team a chance to travel.

“I remind everyone that we need to display professionalism wherever we go,” Noah said. “Most places we go, it’s the first time some people have seen Americans, so we need to represent, not only the Air Force but the United States.”

As this team of firefighters prepares for the next challenge, they set personal goals as well.

“I am hoping to get below three minutes on my next challenge,” Clasen said. “I am working on my techniques, training better and eating better. If I get a personal best, that’s a huge accomplishment in my mind.”

At the end of the day Clasen took off her mask, closed her eyes, took a deep breath of fresh air and reflected on the challenge she has just completed, already thinking and anticipating the next challenge she will face.