BASRA, Iraq – Firefighters celebrated National Fire Prevention Week with a competition Oct. 7 to give soldiers a little taste of what their job is like.
The Firefighter’s Challenge consisted of four-person teams, competing in four events based on firefighting skills.
The individuals who participated in the competition were timed as they completed all four events. The events included a bunker gear drill that required the contestant to dress themselves from head-to-toe in a fireman’s gear, rolling out and connecting three fire hoses that disperse water at a pressure of 200 pounds per square inch, shooting down orange traffic cones, rescuing a 200-pound doll, and carrying a 75-pound fire hose 100 feet to the finish line.
Event coordinator, Justin Relkin, a firefighter and fire inspector for Basra, said the events were created to give people a feel for some of the tasks firefighters deal with in the real world and to make them aware of how strenuous the job can be.
The Basra Fire Department got a lot of interest from prospective contestants around Basra who wanted to participate in the event.
“A lot of people asked me about the firefighter’s challenge,” Relkin said. “We’ve had teams show up here to get an edge on the events, and they wanted to put the bunker gear on and stuff like that. They all seem to be in really good shape, and they like a challenge and are pretty competitive. ”
“The type of physical challenge is different,” Relkin said. “It needs to be a group effort.”
The Basra Firefighter’s Challenge was based on a national firefighters’ event. That competition is a bit more challenging than the Basra event, but participants definitely feel the heat, he said.
“Our whole thing is for it to be fun,” Relkin said. “We put this on for the Soldiers and civilians that work here and want to rally each other on and support each other.”
For the individuals who were up for the challenge, the competition offered another day of physical training.
“I’ve been working out at the gym everyday, lifting weights doing some cardio,” said Spc. Jaimin Forsyth, Battery A, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.
“I’ve worked out at the gym twice a day and would run at least three miles a day and do weights and cardio to get myself in shape, since I heard about it,” said Petty Officer 1st Class. Jose Cuevas, also with Battery A.
Cuevas felt good about his chances before the race.
“We’re going to place first. We have to,” said Cuevas. “You don’t ever come to a race and say I hope to place second, so you got to come in with the spirit of saying we’re going to place first.”
Despite his confidence, victory wasn’t in the cards for Cuevas and his team.
The first-place winners of the 162nd Area Support Medical Company out of San Antonio, 1st Lt. Alexandra Brenner, Sgt. Richard McCarthy, Sgt. Kyle Bloodworth and Spc. Dale Wamsley, weren’t planning on coming out for the challenge after a few of their team members could not make it, but they pulled some last minute friends together and participated anyway.
“We didn’t really know what we were in for until we got here,” said 1st Lt. Alexandra Brenner, “Once the sirens went off I was ready.”
“It was really, really fun and we had a blast,” Brenner said. “Our teamwork helped us win first place.”
Brenner added the competition gave her a newfound respect for the firefighters.
“It’s a hard job,” Brenner said. “I give them a ton of credit for what they do, especially in this weather here, it’s tough."
“It’s a good thing for people to be able to come out here and see that there’s more to being a firefighter then getting out front parking at the DFAC,” said Cuevas.
After looking forward to the competition for two months, the firefighters were glad the event was a success. It gave them a chance to give back to the Soldiers and civilians they serve with here. George Gorsuch, chief of the Basra Fire Department, thanked the participants and those who came out to support and invited everyone to an open house cookout.