Fighting Fires and Building Partnerships in Poland


This was Team Spangdahlem’s second time participating in the Szczecin Firefighter Combat Challenge held in Szczecin, Poland.

While the competition simulates various things that could happen  on-the-job, it’s still tough; especially because it involves back-to-back obstacles completed in full firefighter gear. That’s no easy task when gear can weigh up to 50 pounds.

“Simulating an actual fire, we run up the stairs with a hose, we hoist tools up to the tower, we use the Keiser force machine — which is a forcible entry simulator — and then we run to grab another hose to fight a fire,” said Gerd Mueller, 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter crew chief. “The final task is the victim rescue, a 175-pound mannequin that we carry more than 30 meters, which is pretty tough.”


In order to get through the grueling five-stage course, the team trained – a lot.

“Personally, I train six days a week, I do Cross Fit, run stairs at the fire station, pull hose, weight lifting, and our team runs the actual course three times a week … these competitions are very demanding on your body,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsales, 52nd CES firefighter.

This was Gonsales’ third time competing in a firefighter challenge in Europe.

But not everyone is an expert; it was 52nd CES firefighter U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Weeks’ first firefighter combat challenge competition.

“I decided to enter this challenge because I thought it was really cool that we do our job competitively, competing against firefighters all over Europe, Asia and the United States,” Weeks said.


Weeks reflected on his performance this past weekend. “The individual race was pretty hard — I’m not the strongest guy — the hardest part was at the end the dummy drag, I felt it slipping out of my hands, I made fists and just told myself , ‘don’t let go!'”

An awards ceremony ended the two-day event. Mueller took home the first-place trophy in the 40-50 age categories.

“I am proud,” he said. “I not only represent (Germany) and the United States, I also represent our job and that’s what is most important to me. I’m proud representing Spangdahlem fire department.”

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