They were in their fourth week of training to become Prince George’s County, Maryland, firefighters when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
After undergoing training in distance learning and then socially distancing through the remainder of their 28-week course, the members of the Prince George’s County Fire Department’s Career Recruit School Class 61 graduated Tuesday morning.
Just as the pandemic forced a change to the way training is carried out, it also resulted in the first-ever virtual graduation ceremony.
On a sparkling sunny October morning, the class assembled at National Harbor for swearing-in. Behind the speaker’s podium, a fireboat cruised back and forth, arcs of water shooting from the boat’s hoses in a water salute.
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Tiffany Green told the class, “You have endured what no other class has. COVID-19 has forever impacted your memories and experiences from career recruit school.”
She recognized the uncertainty that hovered over the class.
“Despite the challenges you have all experienced over the last few months, you showed up each and every day in the face of anxiety, fear and the unknown.”
Green recalled her own graduation from the recruit school 21 years ago and the sense of pride and belonging she experienced then.
“When you put on that uniform, and wear our patch, take pride in it. Represent us well, both on and off the job. Make us Prince George’s proud!” Green advised.
Newly-minted firefighter Cameron Jones was called to the podium to address the men and women he had worked alongside to achieve their goals of becoming firefighters.
“We all know how hard you have worked to be sitting here today, ready to serve and protect the citizens of Prince George’s County. I have thought about this day many times, but nothing can compare to the scene that I am looking at right now!” he said.
Twenty-four recruits were sworn in. Among them: four military veterans, six former cadets in the Prince George’s County Fire & Science High School program and six firefighters who have family members who are current or retired Prince George’s County Fire Department firefighters.