22 graduate Fire Academy

Published 10:36 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

What started last March and lasted 7,968 hours over 332 days culminated Thursday for the 22 graduates of Class 16 of the Hampton Roads Recruit Fire Academy at King’s Fork High School.

During the graduation ceremony and badge pinning, Class 16, which dubbed themselves the “Peanut City Kn16hts,” received their assignments — 21 of them will work for Suffolk Fire and Rescue and the other for Portsmouth Fire and Rescue.

“Despite the odds stacked against you, you made it. … You’re now in rare company, Class 16. You’re going to give of yourselves so that others may live, because firefighters serve without hesitation or judgment,” said Suffolk Fire Chief Michael Barakey.

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Addressing the graduates, City Manager Patrick Roberts reminded them of the importance of family and their support of their loved ones who serve.

Roberts recalled a hazmat incident while he was serving as deputy city manager when he had not had time to eat dinner before going to the scene. A dayshift officer from Suffolk Fire & Rescue was also at the scene. While there, they talked about food, and Roberts asked him whether he had time to go home for dinner. He replied that dinner was nearly finished when he received the call, and one of his daughters had stopped him as he walked out the door and handed him a piece of dry bread with a cold slice of cheese on it.

“He confided in me that that was the best cheese sandwich he had ever eaten in his entire life,” Roberts said. “And it had nothing to do with the brand of bread or the (type) of cheese on that bread. It was who made it for him and what it meant.”

Roberts noted the slogan Suffolk Fire & Rescue members wear on their sleeves: “Our family, protecting yours.”

“And now you know when the firefighters say, ‘our family,’ they’re talking about the men and women in the firehouse,” Roberts said. “They’re talking about the men and women on medics, on the engine, on the ladder, but they’re talking about you.

“All of the sacrifice that these graduates have put in over the last several weeks, they have fought hard, they have pushed hard to get here. They’ve been pushed hard to get here, but you have pushed too, and you’ve pulled and you’ve supported, and you’ve given them love and support. And you’re part of the family.”

The 22 who completed the academy went through state-certified basic recruit training combined with physical training. Suffolk Fire & Rescue instructors included HRRFA director Capt. Leon Ratliff, HRRFA coordinator Lt. Rainey Dail, HRRFA co-coordinator Fire Training Officer Mary Riddick, HRRFA lead instructor Fire Medic Bryan Grasser and HRRFA staff instructors, Fire Medics Edward Tuck and Joe Jarman.

Keynote speaker Bobby Halton, a retired deputy chief of the Albuquerque Fire Department and the editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering Magazine, gave an impassioned address to the graduates and the rest of those who packed the King’s Fork auditorium. He stressed the message of serving “for God and country.”

“Firefighting has been called the war that never ends,” Halton said. “It’s an endless deployment from this day forward ‘til the day you die, because a firefighter never stops being a firefighter.”

Graduates of Hampton Roads Recruit Fire Academy’s Class 16, the Peanut City Kn16hts. All but one will work for Suffolk Fire & Rescue.

Alexis Albright

Scot Allen

Cody Baines

Joshua Baker

Stacie Ellis

Ashton Felts

Adam Fischbach

Amani Harper — Portsmouth Fire and Rescue

Scott Hitter

David Keller

Charles Kelley

Austin Mills

Jonathan Monahan

Ashleigh Oszust

Mariya Register

Nicholas Retson

Robert Shelton

William Stephens

Donald Vaughan

Matt Wendel

Raquel Wheby

Christopher Wynne