MARBLETON – “I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter,” said former New York City Fire Department Chief Edward Croker. “The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work a firefighter has to do believe it is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives.”
Croker’s words rang true for 10 men and women who graduated from Sublette County Unified Fire’s Recruit Academy on Aug. 15.
Fire Chief Shad Cooper presided over the ceremony at SCUF’s Marbleton training facility. Family members, close friends and veteran firefighters pinned SCUF badges onto each graduate’s chest.
SCUF’s newest members raised their right arms and recited the oath of office, marking the transition from recruit to firefighter.
“I’ve always said, ‘If you set your expectations high, your firefighters will rise to meet your expectations,’” Cooper said. “Without fail, every single one of our recruits has not only met my expectations, but exceeded my expectations.”
The SCUF Recruit Academy Class of 2021 included graduates at each battalion. Justin Simpson and Ronnie Tambourine joined Pinedale Battalion No. 1. Big Piney-Marbleton Battalion No. 2’s newest firefighters included Tyson Adams, Curtis Hendricks Jr. and Tabitha Wagstaff.
Matt Blank was sworn into Boulder Battalion No. 3. Bondurant Battalion No. 4 added Kelly Wombold to its ranks. Two new firefighters – Parris Crooks and Seth Keehn – will serve Daniel Battalion No. 5. Luke Shultz joined Kendall Valley Battalion No. 6.
The 2021 Recruit Academy included Frank Boda of Pinedale and Jen Petty of Big Piney-Marbleton. Boda and Petty were not able to complete final requirements due to scheduling conflicts and injury and will receive their badges at a later date once their work is completed.
Cass Urbigkit, SCUF training officer, guided the graduates through Recruit Academy. Urbigkit was scheduled to speak at the ceremony but was called out to the Willow Creek Fire.
A rigorous training
New recruits enter a grueling six-month to yearlong training process once they pass the initial application process.
“Recruit Academy is difficult by design,” said Cooper. “It’s intended to separate the firefighters who are committed from the firefighters who are not. We only accept the best members who have proven, beyond a doubt, their dedication to this noblest calling.”
Coursework includes classroom and hands-on learning. Recruits study one textbook chapter per week to prepare for an online test they must pass to advance in the course. The International Fire Service Training Association publishes the textbook.
Once a month, recruits test their skills in real-world training simulations at the Marbleton facility. The weekend hands-on sessions typically begin on Friday evening and continue through Sunday, Cooper explained.
Graduates are certified as structural and wildland firefighters. SCUF’s Recruit Academy follows the same rigorous standards as local departments across the country and federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, Cooper said.
The new firefighters also complete instruction in first aid, CPR and HAZMAT.
Cooper laid out three guiding principals new firefighters are expected to follow – dedication, sacrifice and commitment.
Countless hours spent training in Recruit Academy on top of regular jobs or school is the first test of dedication, Cooper said.
“When a volunteer firefighter joins our organization, they join a family,” Cooper explained. “Their position within our organization is earned. You can’t be born into this family. You have to put your time in. It takes a significant amount of dedication.”
Volunteer firefighters in rural communities are on call 24/7 and must be willing to give up personal time to serve the community, Cooper said.
“When somebody calls 911, they expect our volunteers to be there,” Cooper added. “Somebody could be having the worst day of their life and they’re calling to ask for help. It is our duty to be there and it is our firefighters’ sacrifice that makes that possible.”
Commitment to SCUF does not end at the academy, Cooper said.
In addition to responding to emergency incidents, SCUF firefighters log in extra hours maintaining equipment and fire stations, participating in ongoing training and becoming a positive presence in the community.
“Take pride in the knowledge that your commitment sets the examples for others to see and follow,” Cooper told the graduates. “Take pride in the knowledge that your commitment is what makes this organization great.”
The new badges and pressed uniforms donned by the graduates on Monday night represented a readiness to serve their neighbors.
“Sublette County is stronger and better prepared because you chose to volunteer,” Cooper said. “Our organization is better because you chose to volunteer. Each member is now a part of something greater than the individual. Each firefighter can now ride for the brand.”