For the past several days, I have been in a marine fire-fighting class at the Hagevig Fire Training Center to complete the basic safety training required to work on Alaska Marine Highway System vessels. Yes, that's right, the people who cook and serve you your food, make your beds and try to make you comfortable don't just walk on the ship and start working. They go through extensive training to keep you safe.
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Along with being claustrophobic, I also discovered my fears were bigger than I thought. Needless to say, this did not make me a model student. But the center's patient crew, most of whom are volunteers, did everything humanly possible to help me overcome my fears. They never once rushed me, rolled their eyes or made me feel stupid or inadequate.
I had no idea how strong, determined and dedicated these men and women have to be to do their jobs. When I had on my 50-plus pounds of hot and awkward gear, which they have to work in nearly every day, I quickly got a clue. I know they are all serious about their jobs, but their great sense of humor pulls them through the rough spots (and difficult students).
I would like to give a special thanks to Jim Hildre, our fearless and patient leader, Scott Fergusson, Jason Tarver, Sven, Dave, Todd and Sheryl, for all their wisdom, kind words and encouragement. They will always be my heroes.
Juneau should be very proud of its fire department and training center. Don't take them for granted; show and tell them how special they are; and keep your hands together for their continued safety.