Firefighter Challenge builds unity, inspires determination Published Oct. 15, 2012 By Airman Ashley J. Woolridge 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs ELLWSORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Hose drag, dummy pull, ladder climb, hose pack hoist and Keiser sled are activities Ellsworth firefighters are more than familiar with. During the 28th Civil Engineering Squadron's annual Firefighter Challenge at the base fire station, Oct. 5, more than 50 Airmen and civilian employees became familiar with them, as well. The timed obstacle course, consisting of challenges that simulate actual firefighting and fire rescue techniques, was designed to give base firefighters a chance to test their skills and allow others to experience fighting a simulated fire - all-the-while building unit cohesion. "The challenge is also a fun way to kick off Fire Prevention Week," Steven Hilton, 28th CES assistant fire chief, said, adding that this is a tradition with a rich history. The theme for the 2012 Fire Prevention Week is , "Know Two Ways Out," and focuses on encouraging everyone to have two avenues to take when leaving a house or office fire. The majority of the day's competitors were grouped into teams of three or four, and were made up of personnel from a variety of units including the 28th Contracting Squadron, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and 28th Mission Support Group command section. Three brave individuals, including Kevin Vogel, 28th CES Real Property officer, decided to complete the entire challenge themselves. Vogel said he decided to participate because he had heard about it over the years and it sounded enjoyable. "I think running it by myself as opposed to being part of a team was my favorite part," Vogel said. "The four-person teams could split the stages between each other, allowing them not to get burned out. I wasn't sure how much time it would take overall or how long each stage would take. I got a real sense of accomplishment out of it." Like the rest of the teams, Vogel finished the course to the tune of shouts of encouragements and applause from spectators and fellow competitors. "You see everyone cheering each other on - it builds camaraderie," Hilton explained. "The challenge helps to develop the mentality to push through barriers." The course may have been full of barriers - including an 80-pound fire hose the competitors had to sling over their shoulder before running the length of the fire truck garage, climbing a flight of stairs twice in a row, and finally running back to the starting line - but they were no match for the determination of the men and women who came to conquer them. "The first time I went up and down those stairs, I just wanted to drop the hose and quit," Vogel admitted. "I think something like this builds esprit de corps. Whether you are a firefighter, dirt boy, or even an avionics troop, having the chance to compete with each other and strive to succeed in these types of challenges gives each of us a sense of being a part of the Ellsworth team."