By Megan Locke Simpson, Courier staff May 23, 2014
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Laughter and cheering from children poured out in abundance May 19, as Andre Lucas Elementary School fifth grade students participated in the Firefighter Challenge.
The challenge, which brings together these on-post students with Fort Campbell Fire Department employees, has been a popular end-of-year event at the school for several years.
"It's just an opportunity for them to see what it's like to be a fireman and how hard the job is," said Anne Murtha, the school's physical education teacher, who helped coordinate the event. "… I think it's great, personally."
Throughout the Firefighter Challenge, students rotated through different stations. The activities included a blanket drag, carrying a high-rise hose pack and spraying the fire hose. Fire inspector Wendy Leo works with the on-post fire department, and she explained each of the activities are examples of real-life, on-the-job situations.
"If we would have to rescue somebody out of a house or something, [we can use a blanket nearby to pull them out real quick," she said. "That's what we're doing. They're pulling their friend over from one cone to the other."
The students also got to put on firefighting jackets, also known as bunker or turnout gear, to better simulate the true experience. For many of the students, the activities were much harder than expected -- especially when dealing with the heavy equipment.
"To me, it makes me imagine having to have a coat on you, pulling a rope and having to drag bodies out," said fifth grader Alyssa Ryan D'Amato, of the stations.
In addition to the physical activity inherent with such a challenge, the students also got a hands-on learning experience. The firefighters were able to talk to the students about water pressure and other scientific applications.
"Water weighs 7 pounds [a gallon]," said fifth grader Terry Flood, while explaining what he learned.
"The hose, whenever it sprays, it looks like it doesn't have very much water pressure, but it's got a lot," said fifth grade student Anthony Kelley. "It would be enough to knock a person over."
The Firefighter Challenge wrapped up with all the fifth graders participating in a bucket brigade that pitted boys against girls.
"We're going to have somebody scoop the water out, and we're going to fill it up," Leo said. "Whoever overflows their bucket up at the end wins."
With much excitement and teamwork, the boys passed buckets down the line with ease for the victory. The girls still enjoyed the experience, making sure everyone left soaked as the students used the buckets to pour water on their classmates afterward.
"I didn't know you had to be that strong," said 11-year-old Autumn Moore. "I learned that you have to work as a team."
Murtha said the event promotes community involvement and provides a special learning opportunity for the Andre Lucas Elementary School students who will move on to middle school in August.
"They can see a connection to what they're learning and what the fireman do, so that they can see that it's not just an easy 1-2-3 job," Murtha said. "I'm excited for them to get a chance to do it."