Graduate Cody Bishop, left, shakes the hand of Gwinnett County Fire Lt. Chuck Barnwell, who pinned his badge on Friday afternoon at the Basic Firefighter Graduation Ceremony at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
LAWRENCEVILLE — It was called a favorite class by one of its recruiting trainers, one that had fun and personality, but also overcame obstacles and showed determination and respect for the job.
It scored highly on academic tests, and only recorded 15 demerits, just five by the recruits who made it to graduation.
“This class was a success story,” said Gwinnett County Fire Lt. Mike Martin, who supervised the training. “You were a lot of fun to have.”
Gwinnett’s newest firefighters — class 2012-2 — were honored on Friday afternoon at the Basic Firefighter Graduation Ceremony before a crowd of family, friends and colleagues at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. The 27 graduating recruits received diplomas and badges after they completed a 16-week fire school training where they participated in about 1,240 hours of basic firefighter and emergency medical technician training. That’s separated into 640 hours of firefighter training, and 600 hours of advanced EMT training.
Recruits receive instruction in hazardous materials awareness and operations, emergency response to terrorism, and pre-hospital emergency medical care.
“We call them firefighters, but what they went through is a lot more than just fighting fires,” said Chief of Training Russell Knick. “It’s a lot easier to talk about what they don’t do.”
Some of the firefighters already received station assignments as they were hired to fill vacancies created by retirements and promotions within the department.
The class recorded a 90 percent academic average, and a 90.4 percent score in the combined areas of practical, academic and effective training.
“We learned not only how to be firefighters, but (about) the brotherhood,” class speaker Cody Long said.
Five members of the class received awards. Wes Linhorst received the Physical Fitness award, Brian O’Shea the Core Values award, Chris Bradford the EMT Star of Life award, Jonathan Butler was Most Improved and Steven Mathews received the Grade-Point Average and Top Rung awards as the most distinguished member of the class.
As Long recounted stories of training school, which began in October, he mentioned the first acceptance notification being akin to winning an Olympic medal.
“Gwinnett County lived up to its reputation, and didn’t take anyone off the street,” he said.
Long said a typical day in recruit school was filled with uncertainty, and performing the same task was often completed in different ways.
Fire Chief Casey Snyder welcomed the new firefighters to the “fire family” and said they would be provided the same stature and standing as those that came before them. Snyder also said it’s a profession built on public trust.
“We don’t want just anybody coming into your house at 2 a.m. to pull you out of bed because your house is on fire,” Long said. “I’m sure you would take anybody at that moment, but we won’t.”