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Meet Sean Sullivan – Firefighter Combat Challenge Champion

Sean Sullivan competing in the firefighter combat challenge wearing Lakeland Turnout fire gear

The Firefighter Combat Challenge tests a firefighter’s strength, endurance, and overall skills under pressure. At Lakeland, we’re proud to partner with seasoned professionals – those who take the tradition and rigor of the combat challenges to heart – like Sean Sullivan.

Sean holds eight state records in Kentucky for Firefighter Combat Challenges (FCC) and FireFit combined. He is the 2021 FireFit European Champion Over 40, FCC World Champion over 45 Tandem, and holds a record for being the first competitor to win 4 challenges in 1 season.

Overall, he has attended 58 competitions around the world with 87 total individual races; and these are just a sliver of the accomplishments Sean has achieved over the last 14 years. I was able to get to know more about Sean’s personal and professional motivators, his experience in firefighting, and what makes Lakeland the right choice for his endeavors.

Sean Sullivan - Combat Challenge Competitor

What made you want to become a firefighter?

My mother would tell you I wanted to be a firefighter since I was a toddler. I don’t remember that though. For me, it started when I decided to enter the military. I decided to join the 445th Civil Engineer Squadron out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio in 1994.

The only jobs they had available at the time were load master (I don’t like to fly), and a firefighter. I fell in love with the career in the fire academy in 1995 at the Louis F Garland Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. I decided there that I wanted to be a firefighter for the rest of my life.

I later achieved my dream of being a full-time career firefighter in May 1997, when I was offered a job with Frankfort Fire & EMS. I remained there until August 2017 when I retired as a Captain. Currently, I serve as the Assistant Fire Chief of Training, Master Sergeant with the 445th Civil Engineer Squadron out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Air Force Reserves.

Sean Sullivan competing in the firefighter combat challenge wearing Lakeland Turnout fire gear

How does the Firefighter Combat Challenge prepare you for real life emergencies?

The Combat Challenge has related to real life emergencies in the field for me by helping me improve my ability to work in both bunker gear and on air with a SCBA. It has not only helped but forced me to be better physically at my job.

I have found myself being able to do more on a fire scene or in my training with the military without needing to slow down. Understanding how to move in the gear while performing various job-related duties has been more efficient since I began training for the Combat Challenge. I have been lucky enough to not have more than basic structure fires over the last few years while training for the Combat Challenge.

A few fellow competitors have told accounts of making multiple victim rescues and attribute their ability to make these saves to their Combat Challenge training. I have found my ability to work longer and more efficiently in my gear.

What challenges have you faced in your career as a firefighter and FCC competitor?

I’ve competed for 14 years and had to manage kids, work, family obligations, military, training, and my own personal time. While the course is difficult to run, it is easy compared to making sure your family never feels they are second place to a simple competition. I love competing and the training preparation for a race, but it means nothing without the overwhelming support from my wife, MJ, and our 3 children.

Sean Sullivan wearing medals from competition

How does Lakeland differ from other gear you have worn in the past?

Lakeland Stealth gear differs from other gear I have worn in my firefighting career and my racing career in three areas: the lightweight style of the material, the athletic design for movement, and the durability of the material.

The material is amazingly light weight yet very durable and scratch or tear resistant. I have continually done training, racing, and various physical activities in my Lakeland gear for the past four years with this set, and it remains undamaged and in near perfect condition as if I just got it.

The athletic design of the gear allows for ease of movement and flexibility while functioning in the gear. I’m currently racing and training in my fourth set of Lakeland Stealth gear and prefer it to any other style I have used in my 26-year fire service career.

Lakeland Stealth Gear for Firefighter Combat Challenge Training

Every brave man or woman has a unique reason on why they became a firefighter, but the common underlying intention is to protect the people. Sean Sullivan has protected his people for over 26 years with no plans on stopping. He’s had an amazing career as a firefighter and as a father. He is an advocate for competition and real-life safety, and we are proud to support him here at Lakeland Industries.

Lakeland Stealth Turnout Gear combines fire and heat protection with an innovative athletic design for agility and comfort. The Stealth coat is engineered with a cinched lower back drawstring cord in the rear behind your SCBA. This allows the front of the coat to lay flat for increased mobility. 

Our Stealth pants have tactically designed grip handles for quick pull-on during emergencies and are a tapered fit to distribute weight around the hips. These pants work with our Black Opps Suspenders that can be moved in the waistband for greater comfort and comes with a Kevlar belt that can be easily swapped for an RIT belt. All of our Stealth gear includes a radial pleated knee and unique lower leg design to eliminate wear and tear. Learn more about Lakeland Stealth, and speak with a Lakeland specialist today

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Jared Johnson carrying hose in firefighter challenge
“I chose Lakeland not only because their gear spec is one of the most custom, athletic fit, and mobile options on the market today, but because the standard they set internally to ensure firefighters have the best and safest gear options available is at their highest level of concern.”

Jared Johnson, 3rd Generation Firefighter
Team ATX | the Austin Fire Department

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