By Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Col. John Shaw, 21st Space Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Redman, 21st Space Wing command chief, dripped sweat for an hour May 5 during an introduction to fire training here.
The training was comprised of the unofficial firefighter physical training test and a confidence burn reaching 500 degrees. The test is typically accomplished at least semiannually by fire protection technicians with the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.
“The test is a typical ground fire operation tied into one physical endurance test,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Crowe, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief. “We want our leadership to see our physical requirements, gear requirements and to get an overall feel for what our guys go through.”
With more than 60 pounds of gear on, the test is designed to push participants to their limits both physically and mentally. Typically, the test is run in teams of two and for safety purposes the commander and command chief were teamed up with experienced firefighters. After receiving a brief tutorial on how to work their equipment, the commander and command chief faced the test held at the fire department’s burn pit near the north end of the flight line.
The first portion is mainly physical. The commander and command chief were required to carry more than 40 pounds of hose up five flights of stairs, where they pulled another hose on a line to the top. Once complete, they were required to lower the hose and carry the other hose to the bottom. Afterward, the team worked on an apparatus that simulates cutting holes in a rooftop, hitting a heavy block with a sledgehammer.
At about two to three minutes into the test, they were out of breath, sweating heavily and were slightly disoriented; similar to how a firefighter would feel before they actually enter a burning building.
During an actual emergency, time is of the essence. Getting a hose in position and ventilating a rooftop puts strain on the body, but it’s just the beginning of a rescue attempt, added Crowe. While the first component of the test pushed physical fitness levels, the next component tested cognitive abilities under stress and muscle fatigue.
After ventilating the roof, they climbed into a dark and smoky building. They found their way through the building, made an exit and dragged a heavy dummy simulating a person 25 yards to safety. Immediately after, they dragged another hose along the ground for about 20 yards. At this point in the test, even the most physically fit firefighters are fatigued.
About seven to eight minutes into the test, the last portion is designed to test a firefighter’s ability to put out a fire while being completely exhausted. With sweat dripping down their masks and having a hard time controlling their breathing, both the commander and command chief successfully dragged a hose and sprayed water on two small targets simulating putting water on the source of the fire.
After finishing the test, it was obvious Shaw and Redman were thoroughly exhausted, but both were smiling.
“They definitely enjoyed the test, but it was mainly about spending time with our fire protection teams,” said Crowe. “We always enjoy doing it; it gives us a chance to practice our skills and test ourselves physically and mentally.”
“It was great getting out with the fire teams and seeing how hard they work,” said Shaw. “The physical and mental toughness of a firefighter comes through hard work and determination and we got to experience a small piece of what it takes to be excellent at their job.”