News: Navy civilian firefighters train for Firefighter Combat Challenge
NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. – Military veterans, turned Navy civilian firefighters, of Federal Fire Department San Diego Fire and Emergency Services South West Region, are in training for the World Firefighting Combat Competition held every year, which hosts hundreds of firefighters from around the world.
The Firefighter Combat Challenges consist of multiple regional contests held all over the United States and Canada that lead up to the world championship. The competition has caught the attention of firefighters from around the world, including South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, and Chile.
"Our training is accomplished whenever and however we can get it done," said firefighter Cliff Walker, Navy veteran, who works out at Fire Station 111 Naval Submarine Base Point Loma, and is also the metro San Diego team captain. "All our training is held on our own time and it’s a great way to stay in shape."
They course is meant to simulate the mental strain of real-life firefighting. A series of five tasks comprise climbing a five-story tower, hoisting a hose, chopping a Keiser Force Machine, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound victim. The overall goal for the team is to beat the clock, their opponents and themselves.
Each member has an affiliation with the military and works on a Navy installation, such as Naval Air Station North Island, Naval Base San Diego, Naval Hospital and Naval Air Station Imperial Beach.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) 1st Class (AW/SW) Walter Hernandez, a Navy Reservist, works as a civilian firefighter on NASNI. He said, "I'm the new guy of the group, but this challenge is a great way to better yourself." Hernandez also recently returned from a tour at Naval Support Activity Bahrain where he helped establish the first firefighting station there.
The team members are: TJ Riggs, Tyson Cardenas, Philip Halbert, Navy veterans Cliff Walker and Walter Hernandez, and Marine Corp veterans Phil Kora and Troy Brown.
"Being a part of the U.S. Navy Fire Combat Challenge Team requires 110 percent commitment for all its team members and is an earned position," Walter said. "We leave every ounce of ourselves on the training grounds and this hopefully leads to a top position on the podium."
They currently hold car washes, and various other types of fundraisers to cover traveling expenses along with acquiring sponsorship throughout their county. The metro San Diego team’s commitment to representing the Navy and all firefighters is visible in their training and focus of winning attitude. The team’s next scheduled competition will be April 19-21 in Indianapolis, Ind.