Friday was graduation day for the 54 recruits of Oklahoma City Fire Department’s Class 2017-3. But it didn’t mean the hard demands were over.
“Every day is a training day. Every day is a physical fitness day.”
The words of Lt. Steve Harris weren’t just a slogan, either.
It was important advice about being prepared for the harsh physical and mental demands of being a firefighter in Oklahoma City’s Fire Department.
Harris, an accomplished marathoner, reminded the recruits to constantly prepare for the ongoing demands they will face.
Just one example of the many requirements for being a firefighter with the OKC Fire Department is this:
Strength and stamina enough to climb 6 or more flights of stairs while wearing fire protective ensemble weighing at least 50 lb or more and carrying equipment/tools weighing an additional 20 to 40 lb.
Indeed, in order to be fully effective, “every day is a training day….”
It was a happy conclusion to that phase of training for the earnest recruits although they maintained their composure throughout the ceremony.
Their family members came to the Civic Center in downtown Oklahoma City to see the end result of hard work invested by the recruits who were husbands, sons, fathers, wives, and daughters.
One of the larger classes, and the third class that started in 2017, this class will start to fill new stations, some of which were built with bond money in the expanding city of over 600 square miles.
But, they couldn’t open until the city increased its budget for firefighter positions.
Eventually, that happened and now the new recruits are on their way.
Assignments to companies and shifts were projected on the screen at the front of the room for the graduates who will report for their first shift on Sunday.
Graduates will then spend the next year on probation as they receive mentoring for the dangerous job that only duty with experienced firefighters can provide.
Three awards were given for those who excelled in their training.
Christian Johnson was cited for top academic achievement earning an overall score of 98.25 percent, no small feat for the work that requires constant study, testing, and retraining.
Matthew Marshall received the physical fitness award in a class where everyone had to meet fitness demands far beyond the capabilities of workaday citizens.
Those awards were given by the instructors, but the last recruit given an award was chosen by his peers.
Jason Page was chosen by the class as the best overall recruit by showing a willingness to lead and meet the many demands of basic training.
The pinnacle of the event was the swearing in and pining of badges.
After the recruits were sworn in, they formed a line around the front of the large auditorium.
Loved ones were then invited to come forward and pin badges on the new firefighters.
After the ringing of the ceremonial fire bell, the class began to mingle with their families.
There were smiles and some laughter.
But, earnest faces and reserved behavior revealed new firefighters who were realizing that their true test would begin on Sunday as they begin to merge into the unique families of each company.