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‘CERT’ainly tough

Law enforcers compete Wednesday

April 16, 2009
By ANGELA BURCH Messenger staff writer

Law enforcement and corrections officials know as well as anyone that in an emergency situation every second counts.

Training for those situations outside of actual emergencies gives them a chance to shave seconds off their response time in the future. All without the added pressure of having lives to save.

A little friendly competition doesn't hurt either.

Article Photos

Justin Ringler, with the Newton Correctional Facility team, gives it his all as he completes a leg of a relay race Wednesday while carrying two heavy pieces of pipe at the sixth annual CERT Challenge held in Brushy Creek State Recreation Area. Each section of pipe weighs about 40 pounds.

Seventeen teams of three representing law enforcement and corrections agencies throughout the state - including correctional facilities, Iowa State Patrol, police departments and sheriff's offices - competed in the sixth annual Correctional Emergency Response Team Challenge Wednesday at Brushy Creek Recreational Area.

"This is a chance to have some friendly competition while networking with other personnel," said Capt. Tim Berger, of the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. "It's a good chance to use all of your skills because you never know what is going to happen."

One of those challenges presented competitors with a very possible scenario.

Their task was to enter a pitch-black, two-story smoke simulator and retrieve two "bodies" and remove them from the "building."

Racing against a clock instead of against knowing there are lives at stake didn't seem to slow any of the competitors down.

The teams wanted bragging rights. Shouts of "come on, go, go, faster" echoed throughout the field as team members scaled fences and pulled trunks filled with cinder blocks.

The physical challenges appeared to be no walk in the park. The sweaty and collapsed officers laid out at the end of every physical challenge gave that away.

Nathan Monroe, a correctional officer at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, served as a time keeper for one of the obstacle relays. In that relay, competitors had to run through a tire drill, climb over and under a row of horizontal bars without touching the ground, climb a ladder up a tree and sprint back to the start.

"These obstacles are truly a test of physical stamina," Monroe said. "They're getting people more prepared for emergency situations and at the end of the day, everybody's worn out."

Another station required the team to carry a 20-foot-long steel pole over four horizontal bars that resembled walls. The pole couldn't hit the ground and the officers carrying it guessed it easily weighed at least 200 pounds.

The marksmanship stations provided good training to know how the officer will respond under pressure, according to Sgt. Luke Fleener, of the Webster County Sheriff's Department.

"All the courses in range test accuracy in shooting when there's stress," he said. "It's good practice while wearing all the equipment."

In one station, officers had to shoot while wearing a gas mask which restricts breathing and makes it harder to find the site, he added. Another, they had to sprint to the firing line. They also to fire shots prone, kneeling and standing.

Above all, the day helped build camaraderie and challenge all of the officers, according to Capt. Troy Hammen, of the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. Hammen is an organizer of the CERT Challenge and a first-time competitor.

"It is really fun but also tough," he said. "You really have to communicate with people you're working with and at the same time it prepares everybody for emergency situations."

Contact Angela Burch at (515) 573-2141 or



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