Local sportscaster takes on Firefighter Combat Challenge
By Senior Airman Stephen Musal , 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 15, 2008
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
It's been called the toughest two minutes in sports.
Competitors in the Firefighter Combat Challenge must carry a 45-pound hose up five stories, hoist another 45-pound toolbox the same distance, move a 150-pound block of solid steel eight feet using only a sledgehammer, dodge fire hydrants, pull a charged 1 2/3-inch hose 100 feet and drag a 175-pound dummy more than 100 feet to the finish line.
Also, all of this is done in boots and wearing a 35-pound oxygen tank on the competitor's back. The challenge is designed to simulate various challenges firefighters might face while conducting firefighting and rescue operations.
It is not a task to be taken lightly. The SAM Squad, the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy's Firefighter Combat Challenge team, practices all year to compete in these events.
On Monday, local sportscaster Andy Scholes decided to give it a try.
Mr. Scholes, who works the sports desk at KLST, a local San Angelo television station, took part in the "KLST Sports Challenge."
Every week, local athletes in everything from baseball to ping-pong to fencing challenge KLST sportscasters to compete in their sport. When the athletes beat the sportscasters (often the case, simply due to the amount of practice the athletes have), they are awarded various prizes. The event is featured on the sports news.
Lieutenant Colonel Shawn Moore, 312th Training Squadron commander, issued the challenge on behalf of the SAM Squad, and Mr. Scholes rose to the occasion. The sportscaster found himself at the fire academy Monday as Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cook, the SAM Squad Team Captain, demonstrated his mastery of the course.
"They call it the toughest two minutes in sports, and I see why," Mr. Scholes said, after watching Sergeant Cook run the course in one minute, 30 seconds. "I hope I make it through."
"I think he'll complete it," said his challenger, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charles Ammon. "I just don't know if he'll be able to walk afterwards."
Sergeant Ammon's words proved prophetic. Mr. Scholes powered through the first two obstacles before losing steam moving the 150-pound steel block.
He managed to complete the next two obstacles as well and dragged the dummy, the final challenge, more than half way toward the finish line.
Despite the motivation from several fire academy instructors, Mr. Scholes collapsed from sheer exhaustion between 40 and 50 feet from the end. After he'd recovered his breath, he credited the tower with tiring him out.
"Once I got down, I was done," he said. "I couldn't do anything else." Sergeant Cook agreed.
"You looked really impressive until the sledge," he told Mr. Scholes, "It was all downhill from there. But all in all, the whole outcome was 'you did good'," he added, "Probably a little above average."
Strong praise from the captain of the SAM Squad, which has been ranked second place in the world two years running. Sergeant Ammon, Mr. Scholes' challenger, is ranked 6th in the world.
Staff Sgt. William Gates joins Sergeants Cook and Ammon as the returning members of the SAM Squad. Rookies Staff Sgt. Kevin Wasiewski and Marine Corps Sgt. William Alexander round out this year's squad.
Mr. Scholes may not be quite ready to compete in the national championships like the SAM Squad, but Sergeant Ammon said that the sportscaster did better than he did his first time - it took all of the firefighters practice to get to the level they're at today.
An exhausted Mr. Scholes looked back over the course, and grinned ruefully.
"That's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he said.