Duke had spent the toughest six weeks of his life at the Hammer Training Facility in Washington State before returning home to Laura and the twins. Learning the spray line of vapor and spill containment proved to be a bigger challenge than he thought. It was his wake-up call the first week to take the program more seriously.
Two other guys from the firehouse back home had applied, but the county could only send the top candidate. It was now his job to come home and train the rest of the captains. “Lord,” he prayed to himself stepping off the plane “please help me to remember all the details.”
“Air supply management” he barked over the respirators clicking intake valve like Darth Vader “is the most important job you have inside. Your life, and the life of each person inside, is counting on you for proper air supply management.”
In the doldrums of growing up his mother would say “With a name like Duke, plan to be a cowboy or a fireman.” It was a reminder that he had a greater responsibility to his six siblings.
As the team captains ran out of the burning training shell loaded in full gear and mask Duke called out the time from the stopwatch as each one passed a yellow line on the asphalt lot. The last one to cross the line was two minutes and forty-two seconds. He would need to improve this time by a full minute.
Duke spent thirty minutes going over what they had done wrong. Then, another twenty minutes on what they had done right. Finally he sent them to the showers. Some invited him out to the bar for a round, but he declined. “Laura and the twins are expecting me for dinner” he smiled. The only non-smoker in the fire department, Duke saved his beer drinking for football season.