FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Thick black smoke gathers, flames smolder the walls and a child's cries for help overpower the screeching of sirens.

These are the scenes and sounds experienced by those who put their lives on the line to save someone else's. These are the men and women who have no ambitions in the world but to be a Soldier, firefighter or police officer.

"Nothing cries out for compassion, concern and danger as the sirens of a fire engine or police car carrying warriors ready to do battle without flinching," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric D. Mattson, military fire chief, Fire Protection Division, 6th Military Police Detachment, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.

Individuals such as those described gathered March 26 to test their skills in the quarterly firefighter skills challenge at Fort Rucker.

The day was filled with a basic skills competition between firefighters and other teams, including military police. Skills included advancing a hose line to simulate advancement of a fire attack line and applying water to the seat of the fire, forcible entry, victim rescue and hoisting a weighted object to simulate raising a piece of equipment via a rope to an elevated position.

"These competitions help build morale, teamwork and utilize job skills firefighters use on a day-to-day basis with a little fun involved," said Shane Brown, Fort Rucker Fire Department Training Division assistant fire chief.

The competition, held every three months, consists of a group and individual competition. Nine teams competed in Saturday's event from the Flat Iron Air Rescue Unit, the military fire department and the military police.

"The competition brings Soldiers together in a competitive way and allows for some inter-agency competition," said Steve Collins, Fort Rucker Fire Department fire chief.

Firefighters complete all of the training events set in the challenge along with additional training throughout the year. The competition allows them free time to get out of the structure of the fire department and military, said Brown.

Pfc. Emily Barringer, 6th MP Detachment, took part in the group and individual competitions for the first time since joining the military.

"At the academy, you have to pass a course similar to this one and I was nervous," said Barringer. "Everyone told me to give it my all and to make sure not to quit. I came out, I did it, I ended up winning and I feel great."

Spc. Jeffrey Catlett, Spc. Matthew Rayfield and Pfc. Scott Eich took first place in the group competition with a time of 2:11. Second place with the time of 2:32 belonged to Spc. Omar De La Cruz, Spc. William Love and Pfc. Jeffrey Hogan. Staff Sgt. Jerry Adamson, Sgt. Joshua Tabucbuc and Sgt. Matthew Bradshaw took third place.

Barringer took first place in the women's individual competition with the time of 5:10 and Pfc. Lawrence Coe took first place in the men's competitions with a time of 2:23.

The competition is meant to be strenuous, build camaraderie and boost morale of those involved, according to Sgt. Joshua Seligman, training NCO, 6th MP Detachment.

During the competition, Bradshaw said, "The competition is heating up - everyone wants to make it to the final round."

According to Mattson, the event is challenging, but comes with bragging rights and friendly competition. The competition allows firefighters to practice their skills to extinguish fires and save lives in order to be ready when faced with situations when those skills are called upon.

"Not only is it training, but it's an opportunity for everyone to unwind," said Mattson. "We work long, hard hours, and this lets us blow off some steam and compete."

"This is not just a fire department, this is an Army, and coming together as often as we can makes us a family and a team," Barringer added.

The challenge is held every three months and is open to fire departments across the Wiregrass area.

"It is great to see the spirit of competition!" Bradshaw said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16