On Nov. 17 John D. Silverwood graduated from Alexandria Fire Department recruit training. He is now a firefighter assigned to Station 3 on Cameron Mills Road.
None of that in or of itself is particularly unusual. What is unusual is the fact that Silverwood is the second recipient of Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Association scholarship awarded to high school graduates pursuing higher education in a fire and/or life safety emergency services field. He is also the only one of the first three recipients to return to Alexandria after graduation to become a member of the Alexandria Fire Department.
Initiated in 1999, the $1,000 scholarship is awarded through The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, according to William Kehoe, association secretary/treasurer. "Other recipients went on to other places following graduation," Kehoe explained.
"I'm very glad to have this job. I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position and I'm very proud to be able to help the people of Alexandria. It's good to be working for the City where I grew up," Silverwood said.
A 2002 T.C. Williams High School graduate, Silverwood attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. This past June he graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice.
"They didn't have a course in fire and life safety or that's what I would have studied. I've always wanted to be a firefighter," he said.
"But, I'm also glad I selected criminal justice. One of the courses was violent crime scene investigation. I believe it could eventually be helpful in this profession as I progress," Silverwood said.
His new career is living up to expectations. "I try to learn as much as possible from those that have been on the job and have real life experience," he said.
A native Alexandrian, Silverwood attended George Mason Elementary and George Washington Middle schools prior to T.C. Williams. The first in his family to become a firefighter, Silverwood's parents are both employed by the federal government and his 18-year-old sister is a student at Virginia Tech. in Blacksburg.
"My parents are very supportive of me doing this for a career. And, I hope to spend that career here in Alexandria," the 22-year-old Silverwood said.
HIS TRAINING to become a firefighter began on June 26. It is a grueling 22-week course that encompasses all aspects of firefighting, emergency medical services, fire protection, and fire administration management.
Originally there were 18 member in Silverwood's recruit class. Fourteen of those graduated.
The first half of each training cycle concentrates on various aspects of Emergency Medical Training such as life support skills, emergency care. The second half of the course includes instruction in fire suppression, vehicle operation, how to attack different types of fires, among other aspects, according to the Department.
Each class is under the training of four permanent instructors. They are supplemented by firefighters from throughout the City who aid in providing instruction in the operation of various types of departmental vehicles and equipment.
Recruit classes convene, on average, every two years. Each class averages about 20 recruits at the outset, according to departmental statistics. Those who graduate know it is only the beginning. "It's an ongoing learning process from those with experience," Silverwood said.