11th Annual Blood, Sweat and Stairs: Honoring 9/11 First Responders

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Madison Collier
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

On the morning of Sept. 9, members of the Goodfellow Air Force Base community gathered at the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy. The spirit of camaraderie and remembrance filled the air as participants from all walks of life gathered to commemorate the first responders who sacrificed their lives during the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and pay tribute to the incredible challenges faced by those who rushed to the scene when disaster strikes. The 11th Annual Blood, Sweat and Stairs event, hosted by the 312th Training Squadron, serves as a reminder of the tragic events that have shaped the training of many first responders today.

The heart of the Blood, Sweat and Stairs event lay in its three main components: a combat challenge run,  memorial stair climb and 5K run. The 5K run took participants around the fire academy and gave runners checkpoints where they participated in various exercises. Volunteers provided participants a badge to wear with a name and photo of one of the 343 firefighters who died in response to the attack, allowing runners to reflect on the brave souls they were honoring. The badges served not just as symbols but as faces and stories to remember.

The combat challenge, however, was where true grit and determination of the participants shone through. Teams of five, consisting of students and instructors, competed against each other in a timed obstacle course designed to replicate the challenges faced by first responders in the field. This course was no ordinary run; it demanded

 physical strength, teamwork, endurance, and mental fortitude.

The combat challenge obstacle course encompassed a series of physically demanding challenges. These challenges began with lugging a fire hose up a five-story tower, showcasing strength and determination. Next, they demonstrated their coordination by hoisting heavy tools up the same building using a sturdy rope. The competition didn't stop there; next, participants used a nine-pound sledgehammer to strike a 158-pound Keiser sled, simulating the precise power needed in real-life emergencies. Agility and control came into play as they aimed an active fire-hose at a target. Finally, the obstacle course ended when each team's final member hauled a dummy across the finish line, symbolizing the critical responsibility of ensuring no one is left behind in the face of adversity. 

The event was a vivid reminder of the dedication and unwavering spirit of the men and women who don the uniform to protect and serve.

“The firefighters went to the stairs of each tower that day to rise, to rise to the cries above them, to rise with the firefighters above them. To rise beyond duty to a place of selfless devotion,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Branden Delong, 312th Training Squadron commander. “Here at the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy, we remember all those who came before us and train to the DoD service motto ‘The desire to serve, the ability to perform, and the ability to act.’”

Blood, Sweat and Stairs is more than a competition; it’s a day of reflection, honor, and unity. A reminder that the legacy of 9/11 and the sacrifices made by first responders must never be forgotten.