Firefighters who compete in the annual schedule of Combat Challenge events need training, endurance, commitment and, of course, money. For the three South Shore firefighters who represent their department and Southeast Wisconsin, funding is a lot less stressful thanks to SC Johnson.
Mike Cook, 28, has been in the fire service for four years, two with Pleasant Prairie before joining SSFD. His other teammates are Matt Robers, 27, and Jon Shirk, 32.
To compete, they have to provide their own travel and meals and use their department turnout gear to wear during competition tasks.
"It can get expensive and we're always worried about our gear," Cook said. "I want to be sure SCJ gets recognized for providing the financial support for our team."
Jam Stewart, a spokesperson for SC Johnson, confirmed the company is helping the South Shore team.
"Yes, we are sponsoring the team," said Stewart in an email to Patch. "We’re helping with travel, competitive gear and training."
The gear alone runs about $1,000 per firefighter so this sponsorship is not insignificant. Teams also have to pay entrance fees for the events in which they compete; individual, tandem and relay.
"All that comes out of our own pockets," Cook added. "Right now we're the South Shore Fire Department Team, but we're working on a new name for the team to reflect SCJ's involvement."
The Combat Challenge is an intense set of physical and mental, well, challenges that put contestants through rigorous courses and events to test their fitness and mental acuity all while wearing their full turn-out gear. Training for the events is done on the team's own time that Cook says has increased their endurance and improved their reflexes and balance.
"We're doing what's call Cross-Fit," he explained. "It's a new thing with fire departments where firefighters go full out for 60 to 75 minutes without pausing between cardio, strength, balance and more."
And while the Combat Challenge might be fun - which Cook stresses it is - the competition also helps firefighters in their day jobs.
"This definitely keeps us in shape for the the real world, and it is really fun to compete," he said.
The team will next compete on April 24 in Indianapolis against 20 teams from around the U.S. If they do well enough, they could move on to the worlds where teams from Canada, Germany and Russia, among others, go head-to-head. Cook says they hope to move into the top 10 after placing 15th in 2012.
"We're definitely ready to move up," he said.
Cook said there might be a competition a little closer to home - Milwaukee - later this summer.