By John Van Winkle
Academy Public Affairs
Six Academy Fire Department teams, five tandems and four individual firefighters each qualified to advance to the world firefighter combat challenge during last weekend’s Rumble in the Rockies at Falcon Stadium.
The Academy hosted the Rumble in the Rockies, a regional qualifying event for the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XIX.
All are back this year, with a few new teams and team members, aiming to win world championships again. Individual firefighters who qualified for the world games are Anthony “Tank” McMurtry, Patrick Kraft, Senior Airman Tyler Moran, and Dan McAuliffe.
Tandem qualifiers are: Anthony McMurtry and William Gates; Senior Airman Tyler Moran and Patrick Kraft; Ken Helgerson and Dan McAuliffe; Mr. McMurtry and Stacy Billapando of the Colorado Springs Fire Department; and Mr. Gates and Courtney Van Marter of the Westminster Fire Department.
Six relay teams from the Academy qualified to advance to the world games. For three of the teams, it’s their return to the world games, with most of their 2009 membership intact: Team USAFA, the 2009 silver medalists; Air Force Academy 40+ team, the 2009 world champions; The Fire Fembots, the 2009 World Champions who are a joint Academy-Colorado Springs Fire Department Team, and three new additions to the USAFA team roster: The Simple Jacks, USAFA Cinco and AFA-Team Stealth.
Team Stealth was the mystery team going into the competition and was set to compete on Father’s Day. Academy Fire Chief Ernst Piercy teamed with his son, Matthew Piercy of the Fort Carson Fire Department. The Piercys rounded out their relay team with fellow Academy firefighters Roy Dalton and Tech. Sgt. Nathaniel Pyle, and Lt. Col. Justin Davey, 10th Civil Engineering Squadron commander, to make up Air Force Team Stealth. The team’s membership went undisclosed until the race started, with a little help from race officials.
The course announcer held to the secrecy the team desired. “You might have seen them on a milk carton somewhere,” he told the crowd, “but I’m not allowed to disclose their names.”
This drew in the crowd’s attention, especially from members or the Academy Fire Department, who were surprised to see their fire chief as well as their squadron commander suited up to run the course.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my son Matt,” Chief Piercy said. “It’s Father’s Day, so I wanted to run with him. The folks at the FFC told me that they’ve never had a father-son team run before, so we wanted to be the first.”
Sergeant Pyle started the course, going up the stair, handing off to Matt, Chief Piercy said. “Then Matt hoisted and handed me the baton, I came down the stairs and handed off to Roy Dalton, who did the Keiser sled. Then I ran the delimiters and handed off to Colonel Davey, who did the fire hose.” Matt Piercy finished off the course with the dummy drag.
“It was an awesome and a great experience,” the younger Piercy said. “And to be honest, I didn’t think my dad would come out and do it, so I’m really proud that he came out to do it.”
Not only did Team Stealth complete the course on par with other teams, their time of 1:46.37 qualified them to advance to the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XIX, for a possible repeat father-and-son performance on the world stage if schedules allow.
A longtime advocate of the firefighter challenge, Chief Piercy has been the force and finance behind the Academy teams since their first firefighter challenge appearance in 2001, knowing that training for this course equals increased readiness for the Academy Fire Department.
This year’s Rumble in The Rockies also featured an exhibition match between the colonels and chiefs. Col. Rick LoCastro, 10th Air Base Wing commander, led the colonels team. His team consisted of two mystery players, along with Col. Timothy Ferguson, 10th Mission Support Group commander, and Lt. Col. Justin Davey, 10th Civil Engineering Squadron commander.
“We have two secret other players, who might look like firefighters, but I assure you they aren’t,” Colonel LoCastro joked, earning a chuckle from the attendees and getting the crowd into the mood. Post-event research by the Academy Spirit’s investigative staff determined the guest members of the Colonels team to be Academy Firefighter Roy Dalton, chief of the 2009 firefighter combat challenge team, and Senior Airman Tyler Moran of the 2010 Academy firefighter combat challenge team.
Facing the colonels were Chief Master Sgts. Todd Salzman, Academy command chief; Stefney Dunson, 10th Air Base Wing superintendent; Edwin Maldonado, 10th Medical Group; Richard Ross, Commandant of Cadets superintendent; and Thomas Young Jr., 10th Force Support Squadron superintendent.
Airman Moran gave the colonels team a sizeable lead on the hose hoist, which Colonel Locastro kept as he bounded down the tower to hand off to Dalton at the Keiser sled. The colonels team kept the lead up to the final event, although the Chiefs cut that lead down to keep hot on the colonels’ heels. With victory in their grasp, the colonels team member fell backward halfway through the dummy drag, and Chief Dunson kept his strong and steady pace to drag his rescue dummy across the finish line first. With the win, the chiefs secured the enlisted corps’ bragging rights until the next event in the colonels-vs.-chiefs rivalry.
The Academy teams will continue training and plan to compete in an upcoming Firefighter Combat Challenge regional competition Aug. 28-29, in Vail, Colo., before heading to the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XIX, Nov. 8-13 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.