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Whiteman firefighter team successful at two competitions

Left to right: Christopher Finkes, Staff Sgts. Cory McGee and Joshua Miller, all from the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Ayden McGee, son of Sergeant McGee, display the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge's finalist banner awarded to Sergeant McGee after he won the challenge in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 18-19. The firefighters, who comprise a three-man firefighting team from Whiteman, also represented the base the following weekend at Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 23-26. (Photo printed with permission of Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller)

Left to right: Christopher Finkes, Staff Sgts. Cory McGee and Joshua Miller, all from the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, and Ayden McGee, son of Sergeant McGee, display the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge's finalist banner awarded to Sergeant McGee after he won the challenge in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 18-19. The firefighters, who comprise a three-man firefighting team from Whiteman, also represented the base the following weekend at Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 23-26. (Photo printed with permission of Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller)

Staff Sgt. Cory McGee, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, drags a 175-pound rescue mannequin toward the finish line at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge at Omaha, Neb., Aug. 18-19. Sergeant McGee, who was part of a three-man firefighting team from Whiteman, won first place in the five-part competition, and answered his winning performance with another victory the following weekend at Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 23-26. (Photo printed with permission of Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller)

Staff Sgt. Cory McGee, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, drags a 175-pound rescue mannequin toward the finish line at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge at Omaha, Neb., Aug. 18-19. Sergeant McGee, who was part of a three-man firefighting team from Whiteman, won first place in the five-part competition, and answered his winning performance with another victory the following weekend at Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 23-26. (Photo printed with permission of Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Several months of intense training and hard work returned huge dividends for Staff Sgt. Cory McGee, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron, and his teammates when they participated at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge in Sioux Falls, S.D., Aug. 23-26.

The three-man team consisted of Sergeant McGee, Staff Sgt. Joshua Miller and Christopher Finkes, all from the 509th CES. Millions of people worldwide watched as the team competed in the firefighter combat challenge, which attracts hundreds of U.S. and Canadian municipal fire departments each year at more than 25 locations.

As each competitor wore more than 40 pounds of equipment, a breathing apparatus and helmet - Sergeant McGee persevered to win the competition in a time of 1 minute, 29.82 seconds. Not to be outdone, his teammates, Mr. Finkes and Sergeant Miller, took 3rd place in the tandem event with a time of 1 minute, 34.14 seconds.

Sergeant McGee, who has participated in the challenge for three seasons, said he found motivation in knowing this would be his last event this year.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Sergeant McGee said. "I just pushed as hard as I could and ended up with a great time.

The firefighter combat challenge season typically lasts from April to November, and features pairs of competitors who simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a series of five tasks as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock.

"I was really surprised that I ran a sub-90 seconds, and ecstatic that I won the event," Sergeant McGee added. "It's not every day you get called the 'Midwest and Central United States Champion.'"

The competition presents a myriad of challenges that start at the base of a six-story tower: Competitors climb six stories carrying a 42-pound high-rise pack; then hoist a 42-pound hose roll to the top; next they descend to the ground floor where they simulate chopping by swinging a nine-pound shot mallet on the end of a 160-pound steel beam a horizontal distance of five feet.; then maneuver 140-feet through simulation hydrants to the fourth station, where they advance an attack hose a distance of 75 feet; and, finally, competitors drag a life-sized 175-pound mannequin a distance of 100-feet to the finish line.

The excitement didn't start at Sioux Falls, however. The three-man team participated in another firefighter combat challenge in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 18-19.

Sergeant McGee demonstrated his winning form by taking first place with a time of 1 minute, 32 seconds. Meanwhile, the team complimented its winning form when Sergeants McGee and Miller won 2nd place finish in the tandem event with a time of 1 minute, 32.51 seconds.

The competition is rigorous and competitors are encouraged to maximize their potential. However, penalties or disqualifications can be factored in for several reasons: if firefighters go out of their lanes; if they contact opposing competitors; or fail to grasp the handrail or touch each step on the descent from the tower.

Sergeant Miller discussed what he thought was the hardest part of the competition.

"The most difficult event is running up the six flights of stairs," he said. "We have everything we need to train for this event except for the six flights of stairs at Whiteman."

According to the event's Web site, most firefighters finish the events in five to seven minutes; however, the key in the challenge is to do it as fast as possible.

As the challenge continues to achieve recognition for providing the public a greater appreciation of the physical demands of firefighting, the trio of Team Whiteman firefighters realizes they've achieved their goal, not only for themselves, but for each other.

"For the past four months we have been training very hard," said Sergeant Miller, who was participating in his first year at the combat challenges. "It was good to see all the physically demanding training pay off. I was very excited for Sergeant McGee."

For more information about the Scott Firefighters Combat Challenge, visit their Web site at www.firefighterchallenge.com.