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SAM Squad pulls through challenges

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The SAM Squad, the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy's international firefighter challenge competitive team, has found success in many competitions during this year's competitions.

"The team is doing great, but there is always room for improvement," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cook.

The squad of fire academy instructors is composed of Marine Corps Staff Sgts. Cook and Charles Ammon, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Stacker and Air Force Staff Sgts. William Gates and Matthew Brady.

Staff Sgt. Gates has five years on the squad. Staff Sgt. Cook and Tech. Sgt Stacker are returning from last year, and Staff Sgts. Ammon and Brady are first-year competitors, while Tech. Sgt. Stacker is the team captain.

Each year, Firefighter Combat Challenges attract hundreds of the best firefighters for local, state, national and international competitions at various locations around the globe. Some of the challenges are seen by millions of people worldwide, especially through television broadcasts by networks like ESPN.

The challenges seek to promote firefighter fitness and demonstrate the rigors of the profession to the public.

Wearing "full bunker gear" and a SCOTT Air-Pak breathing apparatus, competitors race against themselves, their opponents and the clock by simulating the physical demands of real-life firefighting. The competitors perform a series of five tasks, which include climbing a five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging fire hoses and carrying a life-sized, 175 pound dummy to the finish line.

The squad has competed in four separate firefighter challenges since mid May of this year. The squad has amassed 15 top-three finishes in various categories from those challenges. Three of those top-three finishes were in the team or team relay category.
Their best performance thus far this season was their last competition at the Tyler Combat Challenge in Tyler, Texas, which took place Aug. 31 through Sept. 1.

The squad placed first as a team with a time of 4 minutes and 43 seconds. They also placed first in the team relay. The SAM Squad continued their sweep of the competition in Tyler with Sgts. Cook, Gates, Stacker and Ammon taking first, second, third and fourth places respectively in the individual standings.

Their domination in Tyler was made a bigger one when Staff Sgts. Ammon and Cook placed 1st in the tandem competition. Technical Sgt. Stacker and Staff Sgt Gates were not far behind as they finished second in the tandem competition.

"The SAM Squad has continued to do an outstanding job in representing Goodfellow Air Force Base and the fire academy," said Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Sheehan, 312th Training Squadron superintendent.

"Their success this year is a testament of the high-caliber of professional men and women who serve in the fire and rescue career fields of our armed forces. I and the rest of us here at the fire academy are proud to support the Squad and look forward to seeing them continue their success this season. Hoo-rah, SAM Squad!" Chief Sheehan added enthusiastically.

The SAM Squad's next competition is the 4th Annual South Eastern Regional Firefight Combat Challenge in Gainesville, Fla., scheduled to take place for Sept. 22 and 23.

The SAM Squad looks to then move on and compete in the U.S. Nationals Combat Challenge, in Atlanta, scheduled for Oct. 12 and 13 before finally closing out the year by competing at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge world championships, World Challenge XVI in Las Vegas Nov. 4-8.