Nine new Los Alamos Fire Department firefighters take their fire service oath of honor and safety Friday in White Rock. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes speaks at Friday’s graduation ceremony for LAFD Recruit Academy #28. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Department Training Division Chief James Thwaits presents Fire Recruit Academy #28. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Fire Recruit Academy #28 class speaker Donovan Aguilar addresses family, friends, elected officials and Los Alamos Fire Department personnel Friday at during a graduation ceremony at the First Baptist Church in White Rock. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Cory Miller of Los Alamos was one of nine cadets sworn in as Los Alamos Fire Department firefighters. Miller is pictured here with his sister, Samantha, and parents Clint and Stephanie Miller. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Department Asst. Chief Steve Dawalt congratulates nine newly-sworn firefighters Friday during the LAFD Recruit Academy #28 graduation ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Department trainers for Recruit Academy #28 recognized at Friday’s graduation ceremony are, from left, Firefighter David Baca, Firefighter Brian Palmer and Firefighter Rick Acedo. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Keynote speaker Alan Carr addresses a full house Friday at the graduation ceremony for Los Alamos Fire Department Recruit Academy #28. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
LAFD Capt. Tim Johnson speaks about Cadet Cory Miller as Miller’s parents pin his badge on his uniform watched by Chief Troy Hughes. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
The nine graduates of LAFD Recruit Academy #28 listen to speakers at Friday’s graduation ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Chaplain Joe Dudziak prays at the LAFD Recruit Academy #28 graduation ceremony Friday in White Rock. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Chief Troy Hughes listens as Maleah Baca sings the National Anthem Friday during the graduation ceremony for LAFD Recruit Academy #28. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos Fire Department Capt. Tim Johnson introduces the nine members of LAFD Recruit Academy #28 Friday at their graduation ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Nine Los Alamos Fire Academy #28 recruits became fully-fledged firefighters Friday during a graduation ceremony at the First Baptist Church in White Rock. They are: Donovan Aguilar of Bernalillo, Isiah Chavez from the Pueblo of Isleta and Cochiti, Manuel Fierro from the Pueblo of Pojoaque, Gary Martinez of Chimayo, Terry Martinez of Chimayo, Cory Miller of Los Alamos, Dennis Padilla of Medanales, Christopher Salinas of Albuquerque and Rudy Trujillo of Espanola.
While congratulating the new firefighters, Chief Troy Hughes noted that Los Alamos Fire Department is probably the only fire department in the nation that has the tag “ nuclear grade fire department” attached to it.
“With that tag comes expectations. When these guys filled out the application to become firefighters in Los Alamos they were alongside about another 125 people. When we got down through all the testing processes which consist of some written tests and some physical tests, we were down to 21. We made job offers to 21 individuals. They had to go through a little more testing – medical testing and psychological evaluation stuff through the (Los Alamos National Laboratory) – and 15 started the Academy,” Hughes said. “Today you see nine. They survived, and as Chief (James) Thwaits said, ‘it’s no joke’. It’s tough stuff.”
He noted that many times the cadets were getting together at night, studying, trying to get through all the academic stuff and supporting each other.
“The first day I met up with these guys, I said you’re not going to get through this by yourself, you’re going to have to have friends, you’re going to have to have brothers as you’re going through this and I think they’ve shown that today”, Hughes said.
He said next month, he will have been in fire service for 35 years..
“It seems like only yesterday. I can remember sitting in their shoes and starting the first day with a few other people in my academy, ‘thinking wow this is kind of cool, I wonder how long it’ll last, is this for me’. And it’s been 35 years that I’ve done it now,” Hughes said.
He noted that the new firefighters would put on their badges during the ceremony.
“The first day that they walk out in the community with that badge on, they’re going to have respect given to them by the citizens of the community. I hear constantly people talking about interactions with our guys at Smiths, or wherever they might be out in the community. Just the other day I read somewhere on Facebook where some lady had slid off the road and a firefighter stopped and pulled the car out of the snow and helped her out. I didn’t get the name and I’m sure the firefighter didn’t want any credit for it. Those are the kinds of things that these guys will do,” Hughes said.
He said the badge the firefighters wear comes with honor that’s given to them on their first day of service by everyone present that wears the same badge, including the retirees, that earned that honor.
“The one thing I ask you to do is never besmirch that honor because you are carrying it forth for guys that were here before me, before everybody else in this room with badges on today and they earned that respect,” Hughes said.
He went on to explain the LAFD slogan – “We walk with P.R.I.D.E.”, which stands for professionalism, readiness, involvement, discipline and excellence.
“I want to make sure you understand my expectations from you when we talk about those five important things. Professionalism – all that you do on or off duty needs to carried with that professionalism. You wear that badge when you’re on duty, but I can tell you, your neighbors, your friends, your relative, they’ll look at you as a firefighter 24/7. So, no matter where you’re at, on or off duty, please act with professionalism,” Hughes said.
He said readiness had been a big part of the last six months.
“You’ve gone through 26 weeks of training to be a responder and that’s only the beginning. You guys are brand new. I expect you to continue to learn every day, prepare yourself for whatever emergencies you might face,” he said.
With regard to involvement, Hughes said LAFD didn’t get to be a great department without many, many people.
“It’s not something that the chief does, or the assistant chief, or the training chief does, it’s a combination of all of us pulling together. You’re part of the team now. I expect you to contribute to the betterment of LAFD and get involved with the department projects. That goes beyond the department. Whatever community you live in, you need to do the same thing there. Be a role model for others and be a part of that community and better your communities,” he said.
He asked the new firefighters to maintain the discipline they learned in the Academy.
“You guys know other people that aren’t standing here today, that didn’t have the same quality that you have or that same character. So, continue to maintain that discipline. Continue your fitness and try to learn something new every day,” Hughes said.
Lastly, speaking of excellence, he said LAFD is one of fewer than 200 fire departments nationwide that can claim international accreditation and that that comes with a lot of work.
“Sometimes you look at it as kind of a chore, but we are looked at by outside parties and they say that you guys are the best. We don’t like to brag about LAFD but I do think that we’re one of the best in the nation,” Hughes said. “We’ve got good equipment. Just yesterday we did plans for six new fire trucks. We’ve got four more new ones that are on our fleet right now and two more coming this week. We provide our guys with good equipment and we expect the same out of them – topnotch stuff.”
Hughes said he learned a long time ago that it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you give. He added that the fire service is a perfect role model for giving back to others, something he tries to follow. He quoted the gospel of Luke 6, 37-38.
“Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you in good measure. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure that you give will be the measure that you get back,” he read.
“That’s the most important advice I can give anybody. So Academy Class #28, I ask you to always measure your success by what you give and never by what you get. On our last day on our path, we won’t be taking anything with us. All the things that we typically measure – our bank accounts and other material things – will be worthless to you. The things that we did for others, the life that you lived as a firefighter, and as a man and as an individual, those are the things that you’re going to take with you. The other stuff doesn’t matter. So give a lot and you won’t regret it,” he concluded.