From ‘ducks’ to firefighters

From left, Brian Wear, Ethan Nuckols, Jacob Toole, Kyle Fryman, and Derrick Stolz are sworn in by Mayor Joe Meyer. Watching in the background is Chief Mark Pierce and Deputy Chief Mike Bloemer (hidden).

After 10 weeks of ferocious training, Covington pins badges on five new members of its Fire Department

COVINGTON, Ky. – In a pinning ceremony infused with history and tradition, five recruits were sworn in Friday at City Hall as full-fledged Covington firefighters.

It was a 10-week journey.

And that journey – according to the recruits’ instructors and trainers – was long, strenuous and fraught with tension.

They pushed the recruits to the edge of their mental and physical breaking points. They forced them to stop thinking as “individuals” and more as members of a “team.” They made them forget the way they had been trained by former employers and indoctrinated them in “the Covington way.”

In short, they transformed the “ducks” – the Covington firefighting world’s slang for unpolished recruits – into uniformed First Responders who could be counted on in times of stress and danger by both the Covington public and their fellow firefighters.

That transformation – the need for it, the urgency of it, and the difficulty of it – was the theme that ran throughout the remarks of the three Fire officials who spoke not just to the recruits but also their families who attended.

“Ducks, you’re done. You made it,” said Corey Deye, Covington Fire’s Assistant Chief of Training. “Over the last 10 weeks, you’ve learned what it means to be a Covington firefighter and how to improve at your jobs. But this was just the start of your learning.”

Firefighter J.P. Navin, who was the duck class’s unforgiving physical instructor, echoed those words as he told story after story about the men’s progress under physical duress as they dragged heavy hoses in full turnout gear throughout parking garages and building, growing stronger by the day.

“Our recruit program has begun to get some notoriety around the state … (it’s) intimidating,” Navin explained to the families. “Over the 10 weeks, at many times, this was more about mental fitness than physical fitness. But they realized that physical fitness (and the need for it) is not about us but about the people we serve and the people we serve with.”

Lt. Jimmy Adams, the lead instructor who taught everything from how to lay out hoses in a tight urban environment to fire behavior to ladder use, said the intensity of the 10 weeks was about combatting “complacency.”

“You can’t train too much for a job that can kill you,” Adams said.

And finally, Mayor Joe Meyer, who administered the oath of office and is himself the son of a firefighter, thanked the families for their support and warned of the full-time commitment of the job. He also praised Chief Mark Pierce and his command staff.

“It’s not a just-them (career), it’s a you-all (career),” the mayor said. “The Covington Fire Department is simply the best in the region. The best. It’s cutting-edge, it stays on top of developments in the field. You’re starting off in the Major Leagues here.”

The five:

  • Brian Wear, Grade 3 Firefighter/Paramedic, graduated from Dayton High School in 2015. He has an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Paramedicine from Gateway Community and Technical College. He has been married to his wife, Morgan, for five years and enjoys traveling.
  • Jacob Toole, Grade 1 Firefighter/Paramedic, graduated from West Clermont High School in Ohio in 2019. He obtained an Associate’s Degree in Fire Service Technology from Cincinnati State in 2021. He enjoys spending time with his family.  
  • Ethan Nuckols, Grade 1 Firefighter/Paramedic, graduated from Simon Kenton High School in 2020. He has an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science and Paramedicine from Gateway Community and Technical College. He enjoys running and target shooting 
  • Derrick Stolz, Grade 1 Firefighter/EMT, is a third-generation Covington firefighter. He graduated from Boone County High School in 2019. He enjoys spending time with his girlfriend and three nieces.  
  • Kyle Fryman, Grade 2 Firefighter/EMT, grew up in Covington and graduated from Covington Catholic High School in 2017. He is a nephew of a retired Covington firefighter and is engaged to Ashli. He enjoys spending time on the farm.  

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