Green braided ropes around their waists, eight young men and women, their names stretched over the backs of their muscled red shirts, marched into Juneau Fire Station No. 1 Wednesday evening.
In unison, their voices proudly carried the company graduation song. The braided ropes, representing the unbroken bonds of brotherhood among firefighters and duplicated on the patches of the Capital City Fire and Rescue uniforms they now have earned, would be untied for the last time. The ropes draw their significance from days when horse-drawn fire carriages hurried along rutted roads to contain flames.
“This is great,” said Fire Chief Rich Etheridge, himself a recruit 19 years ago. “It’s amazing watching the difference from when these recruits first came into the department, some had never even been in a fire station before and now, man, and these guys are just looking polished and sharp.”
Recruit Squad Guide Adam Kackstetter carried the guidon flag, a retired wooden pike pole bearing the company colors.
Recruit Squad Leaders Garret Grant and Amanda Carlson followed with recruits Kelsey Brink, Steven Anderson, Aaron Bruce, J. Henry Kane, and Christopher Walkenford.
Brink and Anderson carried one of two 10-pound Siamese valve connectors. Each squad is responsible for one, and the connectors can never be out of the possession of a member of their respective squads.
Carlson was honored for having the highest grade point average, a 94.5 percentage over the 224 class hours. Grant earned the recruit of the academy award, an honor voted on by fellow classmates as a recruit who went above and beyond helping everyone else and putting himself second and the academy first. Brink received the highest level of personal improvement honor, voted on by instructors who watch the recruits come in from day one and evaluate them into the final hours.
Division Chief Beth Weldon spoke of taking the next step and challenged them to be ready, be dedicated, and to serve, alluding to the CCFR motto.
One by one the recruits filed forward to receive their yellow firefighter helmets from Weldon, and one by one they shook hands with mentors Etheridge, Fire Marshal Dan Jager, Fire Training Officer Nathan Young, Capt. Joe Calnan, Chaplain Sam Dalin, Senior Deputy Shaun Rhea, Division Chief Brian Long, EMS Training Officer Sandra Kelly, and Administrative Assistant Victoria Godkin.
To finalize their new careers the recruits posed for photos outside and were ceremoniously doused by gallons of water.
“I feel amazing, sir,” Grant said as his Metlakatla Tsimshian and Tlingit heritage became one with that of the CCFR brotherhood. “It’s a huge day. It’s like boot camp graduation and high school graduation rolled into one, and prom night.”
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.