After more than 500 hours of training and strenuous testing, four local firefighters received their commissioned pinning and badges at a ceremony in New Johnsonville on Tuesday evening.
New Johnsonville Fire Chief Dale Allen, Captain Rob Barker, Lieutenant Scott Hill and Lieutenant Larry Bradford earned their badge and certification pins. Barker and Hill also represent Morris Chapel Fire Department in Benton County, where Barker is Fire Chief and Hill is a firefighter.
Allen opened the ceremony with, “This is a very special ceremony for us. These guys have followed me through every step of the way. I hope I don’t get emotional.” He continued, “It is hard to believe the numbers with the training required to obtain this certification. We started the process in September. Tonight, is a culmination of 528 hours of training broke down as 448 hours in the classroom, 36 hours of written testing, 36 hours of practical testing and 8 hours of live fire training. Adding to the difficulty, these firefighters and myself did this in our spare time. I cannot express in words the gratitude of everyone involved.”
Tennessee Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education Commission (TFFC) Director Randy Fox and Regional Coordinator Brian Nicholson were on hand to do the honors.
Nicholson commended the volunteer firefighters by saying, “I come from humble means starting out as a volunteer firefighter in a very rural area where your training originally consisted of three training sessions and gave you a pager and said good luck. That was my initial training as a firefighter, you only needed 16 hours. You have just heard Chief Allen talk about more than 500 hours they did on their own time and their own accord. There are career firefighters in our state that has less hours than these volunteer firefighters. This is a milestone and is a prestigious thing that you have done. This should be a proud moment in your lives and you all are leading by example.”
Nicholson further explained, “More than 70% of all Tennessee firefighters are volunteers. A fire doesn’t know if you get a paycheck or not. Those who call for service do not know if you receive a paycheck or not. However, they have a reasonable expectation that when you arrive that you will possess professional skills and have a professional attitude. Those are things the commission hopes to enhance. You earn these things through the training that you have all done.”
Fox added, “This is not just a state accreditation, this is a national commissioning. We commend you for all you’ve done. Gentlemen, being prepared is what you have done with these more than 500 hours of training. You have better prepared yourself for that alarm that may come in tonight or tomorrow or next week. The certification is great, I commend you for that, but the fruit will be when you are out there serving your community.”
All four firefighters were commissioned and certified with badges and pins proudly displayed on their uniforms.
After the ceremony, 69-year-old Bradford, was recognized as the oldest firefighter pinned in a ceremony, according to Nicholson. Nicholson said it should serve as an example that everyone can put in the time and effort. Bradford said he was proud to serve his community and set an example for others.
Barker said he was also proud of his and the other firefighters’ accomplishments. “It is just another way we are showing our dedication to our communities that we serve. Volunteers are definitely the backbone of a community,” Barker said.
Hill thanked everyone for their support and said training is a way to show leadership and serve the community.
Family and friends were also on hand to witness the pinning ceremony. Before the evening concluded, Allen’s daughter Ashley Allen said, “I am such a proud daughter. I know the hard work that my dad and the others put into this. We live in a small town, but the threat of fires is the same and he always answers the call of duty. We are all so proud of him.”