The 36th Firefighter Recruit Class — 17 new firefighters — officially received their badges during a commencement ceremony at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial on April 22.
"These recruits have been given the best training available to enable them to do their jobs for the citizens of Alexandria and return to their homes and families safely," said Battalion Chief Thomas Harrell, training officer, in kicking off the ceremony.
"We are very proud of the men and women in our department and their support for these new firefighters will be critical to their new careers," said Fire Chief Gary Mesaris.
"Today we celebrate what you have learned and where you have been in the last five months. You can be proud of what you have accomplished," he said
"First and foremost is customer service. We are here to serve and must serve our customers when they are most in need. They don't have the convenience of consulting the Yellow Pages to shop around," Mesaris told the recruits, their families and friends that filled the seats in the Memorial's auditorium.
"But this is not the end of your training. Keep working to further develop your competence. As you leave here to start your next assignment, and for some that will be as early as tomorrow morning, the community you serve will be in constant change," he said.
WELCOMING the new firefighters to Alexandria's "city government family" was Michele R. Evans, assistant city manager, council relations and administration. "Alexandria has one of the finest fire departments in the United States," she said.
"But, the face of the firefighter has changed dramatically since 9/11. You are called upon to do much more than ever before," she said.
Evans also assured the audience, "We have the latest equipment to make sure your family member is as safe as possible doing their job. And we welcome them and you to this family we call Alexandria City government."
At each graduation ceremony two recruits are chosen to give their perspective on their new career and the training they have just endured. Speaking for this class were firefighters Micah Edwards and Michael Faber.
Four recruits received special recognition. Erik MacClain as valedictorian; Warner Sherman, for top physical fitness; and
James McCarthy and Corrin Pumphrey shared the Louis Farri Award given "to the fire recruit who best exemplifies the traditions of courage, heart and determination."
The Farri Award is named for a young Alexandria firefighter who died of cancer in 2002. Winners of this award have their names inscribed on a plaque that hangs in the Fire Academy located in the Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center.
Other members of the 36th class were Myron Dent, Jason Harrison, Benjamin Haught, Jr., Brandon Kelly, Jason Kuehler, Tiffany Matthews, Vernon Murphy, Jr., Timothy Quist, Bethany Richards, Carl Roberts, and Sylvester Shorter, Jr.
Also participating in the ceremony were the Rev. Robert Malm, Grace Episcopal Church, who gave the Invocation and Benediction; Callie Terrell, who sang the National Anthem a cappella; Deputy Fire Chiefs Russell Middleton and Vince Whitmore; and the department's honor guard.