A two-man firefighting team from Hunter Army Airfield placed first in Liberty County's Firefighting Challenge, Sept. 11. The proud twosome joked about their identical scores of 1 minute, 56 seconds, respectively- the time it took each to perform a matrix of tasks in cumbersome protective gear, including a nomex hood, helmet, face piece, air packet and a self-container breathing apparatus.

The grueling tasks represented the various responsibilities required of firefighters in a worse-case fire scenario. They included a climb up three flights of stairs carrying 45-pounds of fire hose; boxing up the hose and hoisting up another 45-pounds of hose to the top of the tower to coil up and bring down; moving an anvil-type object with a hammer three feet (to assimilate the power required for a forcible entry into a burning building); discharging water at a target and finally, dragging a 185-pound manikin 100 feet to the finish line.

"It was challenging;" said firefighter Gabriel Villanueva, who's been in the profession eight years. "If I hadn't tripped, I would have had the best time," he said joking with his teammate, Station Chief Thomas Wiley, who has 13 years of firefighting experience.

"It's about beating the clock more than competing against your brothers," Villanueva said, stressing the importance of teamwork and brotherhood among the 19 teams of firefighters who competed.

Chief Wiley said he is proud of all the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield competitors.
Second-place winners, also from Hunter, included Lt. William Davis and Capt. Robert Gordon, with a combined time of 4 minutes, 40 seconds.

Hunter's fifth competitor, Capt. Duane Bostic, a 20-year firefighting veteran, received the best time in the 'over 40' age group of competitors. He competed with James Bilbrey, a Fort Stewart firefighter.

"It's the toughest two minutes in sports," said Capt. Bostic. You have to be physically fit for this profession and there is mandatory retirement at 57. Regardless of our age, this competition motivates all of us to get to a higher level of fitness."

It's tough work but it's also a great profession, according to Chief Wiley, who said he was influenced to become a firefighter after the Oklahoma City bombing. "I saw that famous photo of the firefighter rescuing a baby out of that building and knew then, firefighting was what I wanted to do. Since that time, I've lived every young boy's dream."

Captain Bostic said he was inspired to become a firefighter after his Family's home caught fire when he was a child. "To me, those guys were heroic," he said.

"I'm grateful that I've been given good health and have had the physical ability to do this job for the Army, for Soldiers and their Families and for civilians at Hunter.