Meridian Star

October 26, 2013


Marines, firefighters square off in ‘Challenge’

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     The first Marine-Firefighter Challenge came down to a tug of war between the Leathernecks of NAS Meridian's MATSS-1 and the hardened firefighters of the Meridian Fire Department.

    On this day, amid yells of encouragement from spectators rooting for one side or the other, the U.S. Marine Corps came out on top thereby giving them the first win in the challenge that promises to become an annual, and growing event.

    "This has been great," said Andrew Clayton, chief of the firefighters from NAS Meridian Fire Department that made up the third team in the event. "This was a lot more fun than I first thought. It was great for the men to a be a part of and I'm sure this is only going to get bigger as the word gets out."

    The "Challenge" was an idea concocted by former U.S. Navy Commander Curt Goldacker, who is the chief administrative officer for the city of Meridian. Goldacker said he was looking for something to involve the Navy base and Meridian to help develop cooperation and networking.

    "I saw an opportunity through competition to get various agencies and organizations together, to meet each other, in the spirit of future cooperation," said Goldacker, who is the former commodore of Training Air Wing One at NAS Meridian. "We started trying to get everyone on the same page in August but it has been a little like herding cats, getting everyone on the same schedule. But the end result today was, I thought, fantastic for the first one."

    Goldacker said he already is fielding questions that will likely lead to more agencies, such as the Meridian Police Department, Navy personnel from the base, and the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, in joining in on the competition next year.

    The competition was a mix of military type exercises and firefighting training scenarios. It consisted of three-man teams from the Marine Aviation Training Support Squadron (MATSS-1), NAS Meridian Fire Department, and Meridian Fire Department. A team member was designated the front man for each team through the events which included marksmanship, and two obstacle courses, one set up by the Marines and the other by the firefighters.

    In the first event, MFD fireman Jeremy Holdiness outshot Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Tommy Shaw in the marksmanship event. In fact, Holdiness' dead-eye marksmanship with his pistol was so good some of his fellow firefighters joked that Holdiness might be instantly drafted into the Marine Corps after the competition.

    The Marines rebounded in the military style obstacle course, which included throwing dummy grenades and carrying a comrade on their shoulders during a 50-yard sprint back to the finish line. The firemen of NAS Meridian Fire Department showed their mettle by winning the fireman's obstacle course.

    After the scores were tallied, the top two teams, the firemen from the MFD who led the pack, and the Marines who were one point back, were to square off in the tug of war. The Marines got the jump on the firemen from the start and never let up to win the event and the overall victory.

    "The trophy will be presented to the Marines of MATSS-1 on Veteran's Day," Goldacker said. "The trophy will be brought back next year for everyone to compete for again."

    For now, the Marines of MATSS-1 can hold the title high.