Blood, Sweat and Stairs event builds camaraderie through hardship

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Over 100 Goodfellow members spent their Saturday at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy to participate in its fourth annual Blood, Sweat and Stairs on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Sept. 30.

The Blood, Sweat and Stairs event commemorates the fallen firefighters and other first responders who lost their lives on 9/11, 16 years ago.

On 9/11, 75 firehouses had at least one member killed. The New York City Fire Department lost its department chief, first deputy commissioner, one if its marshals and a chaplain. In total, 257 firefighters lost their lives on 9/11.

“It’s an event we hold at the academy put on by the firefighters, but it’s for everyone,” said Tech. Sgt. Eddie Thomas, 312th Training Squadron instructor. “It’s to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11. Everyone is in awe of what the first responders did to try to save everyone involved in that event, so it’s something that everyone could be a part of. You don’t have to be a firefighter or a first responder to be a part of this.”

This is the fourth year the academy has hosted the event.

“We had just over 100 competitors,” said Thomas. “This is the biggest turn out we’ve had so far. We have students, permanent party, some outside agencies from the sheriff’s department, anyone and everyone that would like to be involved. This event is important because we never forget what happened on 9/11. It’s paying homage to those who did pay that ultimate sacrifice. It means a lot to us in the fire department.”

Competitors are challenged with stairs runs, box jumps, kettle-bell carries, burpees and medicine ball throws. The event takes place on the academy’s grounds and totals up to about two miles.

“It’s a 12 stage obstacle course, and like the title says, there’s a lot of stairs involved,” said Thomas. “It’s to show them what we do, what is involved in climbing stairs to perform rescue operations. The most grueling is the last tower. It’s a rescue tower over 90 feet. They climb that and then run back from there, finishing off the course.”

Participants were challenged, but kept themselves motivated to finish strong.

“My favorite part was probably trying to beat the marine in front of me,” said Pfc. Donovan Plant, 312th TRS trainee. “That kept me motivated the whole time. I was doing good and I was catching up to him, but the last set of stairs got to me. By the end, I climbed about 30 stories worth of stairs. I was feeling good because I got to finish today with my platoon. I feel great that I actually know that I did it.”

The academy allowed anyone to volunteer.

“My favorite part is the people who came out,” said Thomas. “Everyone out here is here to pay respect to what we do, and that means everything to me. They’re here because they want to be here.”

The competition is scored by time and volunteers are grouped in teams of three. The categories scored fastest male, fastest female and the top three fastest teams overall. The winning team got their name inscribed onto a plaque that hangs inside the halls of the academy.

“We all volunteered as a whole platoon there’s not one marine that’s in the 7051 platoon that’s not here,” said Plant. “We all came out here as a family to come out and have fun.”