JALALABAD AFGHANISTAN - Soldiers from Task Force Tomahawk and firefighters from the OB Fenty Fire Department honored the victims of September 11th, 2001 with a remembrance ceremony and Firefighter PT Challenge this week. The 4th annual running of the event was started at 6:30 with words of welcome by Fire Chief Jonathan Croman, who signified the importance of 9/11 to firefighters, the United States Armed Forces, and to Americans as a whole. LTC Ryan D. Barnett, the Task Force Tomahawk Commander, made remarks as well followed by a prayer from Chaplain Eric Moler.
Although the purpose of the gathering was to honor those lost in the tragic events that unfolded 17 years ago, Soldiers and firefighters competed in a Firefighter Challenge PT competition. Chief Croman explained why he paired the competition with the memorial, "We wanted to show what extreme circumstances the FDNY personnel may have encountered that day; trying to reach 78 floors with 60 lbs. of gear and another 60 lbs. of tools would have been extremely difficult. Especially since they would have had to complete their job on the impact floor in an exhausted state." Over the next several hours the 100 plus competitors would surely bare truth to this.
The timed competition consisted of five events. Each team of four would begin by completing ten tire flips followed by a litter shuttle where dummies were carried (ran) on litters from place to place. In the next station, buckets were used to carry water from a portable pool to a garbage can in order to fill it completely with water and displace a basketball that lay in the bottom. Next, Soldiers and firefighters ran to grab a firehose connected to a firetruck and shoot cones off of stands. After completing another litter carry, teams performed the most difficult task, pulling a fire engine 25 meters to cross the finish line.
completed the course it became clear that three teams were on a level above the rest. The team fielded by the OB Fenty Fire Department set the earliest best time of 3 minutes and 37 seconds which was soon eclipsed by the group of Aztec Company Soldiers who came in at 3 minutes, 17 seconds. A team from HHC Company finished strong but was not quick enough to surpass the Aztecs.
As the competition wound down the winners were presented with OB Fenty T-shirts. Others found a moment to reflect. CPT Thomas Marsh from Task Force Tomahawk reflected on his participation, "It's great to compete against the firefighters on such a significant day in our history, especially since many of them have connections to the firefighters lost in the attacks 17 years ago."
Chief Croman was impressed by the strong turnout and was glad to be able to acknowledge 9/11 properly, even while stationed in Afghanistan. "The 343 brave FDNY that were killed on 9/11 truly served honorably. If I can convey this pride and courage to my firefighters' then I've done my job. This event shows how difficult our job can be, but also our willingness to get the job done." Competing against each other and recognizing the events of September 11, 2001 brought unity and a sense of mutual respect between the Soldiers and firefighters of OB Fenty. Though 17 years have passed since 9/11, the commitment to their country and the mission in Afghanistan is unwavering.