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VAFB firemen compete in international Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge

Tech. Sgt. Joe Absher, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, douses a replicated fire while competing in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. The challenge began as a university-based research study and has since evolved into a five-event obstacle course simulating the physical rigors of structural firefighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Joe Absher, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, douses a replicated fire while competing in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. The challenge began as a university-based research study and has since evolved into a five-event obstacle course simulating the physical rigors of structural firefighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Essex Martinez, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron fire captain, simulates a victim rescue while participating in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. A team of six firefighters from the 30th CES made the trip to compete in the challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Essex Martinez, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron fire captain, simulates a victim rescue while participating in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. A team of six firefighters from the 30th CES made the trip to compete in the challenge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Lamont Brown, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, approaches the finish line while simulating a victim rescue during the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. The five parts to the obstacle include a high-rise pack carry, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance and victim rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

Lamont Brown, 30th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, approaches the finish line while simulating a victim rescue during the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 22, 2014, Ontario, Calif. The five parts to the obstacle include a high-rise pack carry, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance and victim rescue. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shane Phipps/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A team of six firefighters from the 30th Civil Engineering Squadron made a trip to Ontario, California, to compete in the 407th Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, Aug. 21 through 23.

The challenge began as a university-based research study and has since evolved into a five-event obstacle course simulating the physical rigors of structural firefighting.

"The firefighter combat challenge is really a competition with a purpose," said Ron Beckman, operations manager for the event. "What that means is all the obstacles out there have evolved from actual firefighting tasks. The five tasks they do are what they may deal with routinely."

Although many of the competitors from Vandenberg don't normally work together, the challenge creates an opportunity for them to bond while working toward a common goal.

"I think competitions like this are really important because it brings us together as team," said Lamont Brown, 30th CES firefighter. "Even though we don't necessarily work together on a daily basis, it helps us display the hard work we put in every day, as Vandenberg firefighters."

The five parts to the obstacle include a high-rise pack carry, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance and victim rescue.

"We start in the same gear we would be wearing during an actual fire, which roughly weighs 50 pounds," explained Brown. "We pick up a 45 pound hose-pack and negotiate a 5-story tower where we then hoist a 45 pound roll of hose up the tower, as fast as possible. Next, we descend the tower and proceed to the forcible entry sled, which is where we use a nine pound mallet to simulate breaching a building. After that, we sprint through an obstacle, grab a hose-line, drag it 175 feet and spray a replicated fire. Finally, we end by dragging a 175 pound dummy, backwards, a distance of 100 feet."

The event tours an average of 25 cities annually, reaching millions of spectators, and has even caught the attention of some major media outlets.

"It's important the public knows the demands firefighters face on a daily basis," said Beckman. "So, this competition has actually been covered by ESPN for 13 years and they deemed it 'the toughest two minutes in sports'."

Maintaining healthy standards is always an Air Force priority, but for Air Force firefighters it's often a way of life.

"This was designed to showcase how important fitness is in our line of work," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Martenis, 30th CES firefighter. "We need to be physically ready at a moment's notice, so we definitely have an extra responsibility to stay fit to fight in our career field."

Though the physical challenges of the obstacle are numerous, the competitors also face a psychological test of mental fortitude.

"It's not only physically exhausting," said John Markley, 30th CES fire captain. "It's also about willing yourself to go further than you think you can. It's about being mentally strong, and if you're not mentally strong -- you're not a firefighter."