Academy firefighters claim medals at world championships
By John Van Winkle, Air Force Academy Public Affairs
/ Published November 19, 2012
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Air Force Academy firefighters took gold, silver and bronze medals Nov. 17 at the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XXI.
The Air Force Academy teams competed in several categories in the event, which simulates the tasks a firefighter must perform at a working fire in full gear, on a timed course where races are won by tenths and sometimes hundredths of a second.
In the team relay over-40 category, the Academy team of Ken Helgerson, Dan McAuliffe, Ron Prettyman, Roy Dalton and Pat Kraft took the gold with a time of 1 minute, 23.75 seconds, more than five seconds faster than their competitors in a single-elimination tournament.
Two of the Academy firefighters turned around to race immediately after the over-40 finals in the mens team finals, due to the scheduling. Kraft and Dalton returned to the course to join fellow Academy firefighters Hans Barkley, Bill Gates, Anthony "Tank" McMurtry and Steven Rousseau, to run for the title against a team from Westminster, Colo.
The Academy and Westminster teams have trained together over the years, so it was a race of brothers, without a loss of intensity. The Academy team crossed the finish line first with a time of 1:10.24, ahead of Westminster's time of 1:12.60. But the Academy team earned an early start penalty, which added a five second penalty to the AFA team time. That penalty gave the gold medals to the Westminster firefighters and left the Academy with the silver, but the Westminster team thanked the Academy in their post-race interviews.
The Academy also raced in the team and tandem categories, with the tandem of Kraft and Helgerson taking third place in the over-40 category, and the Academy mens team taking 10th place in the team finished. The Academy Fire Department also won the 2012 national championship in the team, relay and individual categories, en route to the world games.
"The advantages of having folks compete in the firefighter combat challenge are much more than just the obvious physical benefits, but in the operational firefighting skills that are honed in preparation for the challenge," said Academy Fire Chief Ernst Piercy.
"These skills were displayed over this last summer as Academy firefighters were asked to combat the most destructive wildfire in Colorado state history. Our folks teamed with partners from civilian and military fire service agencies, and successfully stopped the fire in the southwest corner of the installation," Piercy continued. "The physical conditioning and highly polished firefighting skills were absolutely critical to our success."
The Academy Fire Department, part of the 10th Air Base Wing, has competed in the firefighter combat challenge national and world games for 10 of the past 11 years, breaking several world records and winning several world and national titles along the way.
The Air Force Academy was one of several bases to qualify for and send firefighters to the World Firefighter Combat Challenge. Other bases represented included Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.; Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Ramstein AB, Germany; Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C., and the Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow AFB, Texas.