NANTICOKE — Eight cadet trainees graduated from the Public Safety Training Institute at Luzerne County Community College on Monday.
John Shuey, of Wilkes-Barre, was one of those cadets, but one thing sets him apart from his fellow firefighters: he celebrated his 53rd birthday on Sunday.
“I’m really thrilled to have a chance to serve the people of Wilkes-Barre and go into the fire service,” Shuey said.
Shuey and his fellow graduates underwent three months of training that included more than 500 hours of classroom, fitness and tactical training.
Three other firefighters were also hired, but City Fire Chief Delaney said they already had most of their training and were able to take an abbreviated course.
It was almost standing room only at the Public Safety Training Institute. Fire officials, family members and friends all gathered in support of the new firefighters as they embarked on new careers.
Delaney spoke directly to the cadets in his remarks.
“This education that you received here is the foundation of your safety for the rest of your career in the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department,” Delaney said.
Delaney added that the education and training was only the first part of their training — the second part would come when they arrived at the city’s fire headquarters later in the afternoon.
“You’re going to be with firefighters that have well over 1,000 years of experience,” Delaney said.
He added that experience will round out their training as firefighters — that included the heat of a blaze or the threat of someone dying. “You have not experienced those things that really help to make you a firefighter.”
State Fire Commissioner Edward Mann gave the keynote address. He reminded the cadets to keep one thing at the front of their minds in their new careers — family.
“The bottom line is if you keep family first. It’ll help guide you through your career,” Mann said. “It’ll help you make the right decisions when they have to be made.”
The city’s fire department hired the 11 firefighters April, 8 with the help of a $1.2 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. Delaney said it cost $144,000 to train the new firefighters, and that $35,000 covered the training tuition at LCCC.
The rest of that amount, which encompassed the firefighters’ salaries, was funded by the grant.
Mayor Thomas Leighton called the day the firefighters were hired a “landmark day” for the city.
“It was the largest swearing in class in recent history, and I’m very proud to be a part of that,” Leighton said.
LCCC President Thomas Leary said the graduation was the goal and vision the college had in mind when the Public Safety Institute was first constructed. The institute focuses on technical field training and the hands-on training emergency personnel need to respond to situations properly.
Leary also called the building a symbol of “a partnership between government and education to prepare our first responders.”
According to one cadet, the group took away more than just the skills needed to respond to emergency situations effectively.
Working as ‘brothers’
“Fifteen weeks ago, we walked through these doors and strangers,” said Cadet Walter Letanski. “Today, we leave as brothers.”
Shuey admitted that he fell into the profession only a few months ago. He took a civil service test four years ago, but did not get the call for a job. He moved on in his job search, but got a call from the city in March with the job offer.
He admitted that it was hard to keep up with his classmates at times, but he was looking forward to his new career.
“I’m pretty light and spry for my age,” Shuey said. “I look forward to it, I really do.”
Cadet Robert Livingston received the Physical Fitness Award at the ceremony, and Cadet Jeremy Cook received the Firefighter Award for having the highest GPA in the class.