Salt Lake City's fire recruit academy was tough. And that's putting it mildly.
When Marshall was hired, it was all contingent on passing their 14 week academy. We knew it would be hard. We knew it would take a lot time, involve a lot of stress, and be the major focus in our home.
But we had done hard things before. I mean, when Marshall did paramedic school, he was told that it was too hard to do the course and to continue to work. But we're the Andrews. We eat hard things for breakfast. So Marshall did full time paramedic school and (more than) full time work at the same time. And he did them both well!
So when we went to SLC's little scare-you-all-to-death orientation, we left feeling like "Well maybe it's a big adjust for some people. But we're the Andrews, and we're good at this sacrificing/time management/big stress stuff."
Holy cow. Did we learn a lot about ourselves.
SLC's academy were the single hardest four months of my life. It was harder in every way than we had imagined- physically, academically, the complete lack of time, stress, all of it.
Marshall not only had to do hard workouts- he had to do them until he was puking while still running. He was injured one day- needing staples in his head- but finished his tower runs with blood running down his shirt first. He lost a massive amount of weight. He was sore in places he didn't even know he had muscles.
Academically, they had tests each week on the classroom and book work. Anything under an 80 percent was a fail, and fail more than once and you were at risk of being cut from the class. Marshall is very strong academically, and he had to study constantly. Many nights were spent with me quizzing him on the fill in the blank sections- sections that had to be completed verbatim, even if the diction or grammar was poor as written by the instructor.
Marshall was rarely let out of academy early, and was more often kept late. He'd get home close to 7pm, and then we'd have to wash, dry, and press all of his uniform for the next morning- in between spending a few minutes with the kids, getting the kids in bed, studying, eating, studying some more, and trying to unwind. Every night there were boots to polish.
I quickly took on any role that Marshall absolutely didn't have to do. Laundry? Me. Ironing? Me. Boot polishing? Me. Making breakfast and lunches? Me. Yep, I got up with him every morning at 5am to make him breakfast, pack his lunch, and see him off. I spent most of those 4 months scraping boot black from under my nails. Did I mention that I continued to work my job, keep 2 children alive, and get mostly through growing the 3rd one?
And even with the perpetual quest for perfection, there were still areas that were criticized. Boots not shiny enough. Tiny strings hanging from a shirt or button. An out-of-place wrinkle.
Guys were cut from the program. Some quit, not able to handle the stress or treatment from the instructors. Others fired for poor academic or physical performance.
I know what it feels like to be worried absolutely to the point of physical illness. What it is like to stretch and reach and pray and do all that you can possibly do and still worry constantly that it's not enough. To know that any day he could come home and say that it was his last.
But guess what?
He made it.
After 4 long months he was done. I have never been more relieved, and more proud.
Graduation was 9/23/2011. Marshall's family all came, and it was really special that they were able to come out and support him.
We got to tour the training tower and facility after the graduation ceremony. It was really cool to get to see all of the areas where he trained, and handle all of the equipment.
Kiernan, of course, made him a fantastic cake! The inside was made of Blue Mountain Dew- Marshall's favorite drink that he didn't get to have the whole time he was in academy.
Now that it's all over- it was totally worth it. We love Salt Lake City fire! Marshall works with some really great guys, and he really loves the job. He has a schedule you just can't beat. He works for 48 hours straight, and then is home for 4 days in a row. This will allow me to continue working in the job I love too!
And it's also really comforting to know that he was so well trained, and so were all the people around him. I feel confident in his training and his safety because only the best finished academy. Turns out some of the more crazy things they do in academy- like crawling through rolls of wire in the pitch black while wearing full gear- is pretty useful in the job place. Just a couple weeks ago, Marshall had to jump a fence to put out a fire while wearing full gear and carrying a hose.
So now, for posterity, that has been recorded.
Up next: Our 3rd child has lived past the week of his birth, I promise!