After going through a rigorous 14-week academy, three graduates joined the Lodi Fire Department on Friday.
The course was so tough that the three lost a combined total of 50 pounds.
But Kris Graves, Nick Kilday and John Rowlands were all smiles Friday as they were sworn in while more than 50 citizens, family members and fellow firefighters watched.
All said they went into the field to help people, and Fire Chief Mike Pretz reminded the new firefighters that they will be held in high regard but also have high standards.
"Be compassionate," he said. "Seventy percent of our calls are medical, but 100 percent are from people who are having one of their worst days."
Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, who now represents Lodi in the state Assembly, attended the ceremony, as did Mayor Larry Hansen and City Manager Blair King.
The graduates went through tough physical training under the instruction of Lodi Firefighter Dave Rabara, who ran the fire academy. All three will now respond to calls for medical and fire emergencies.
- Graves, 31, said he had once wanted to become a police officer. The more he learned, though, the more he realized it wasn't quite the right public service field for him.
He previously worked at a winery but took the Lodi job when the opening came up. Graves lives in Santa Rosa with his wife, Leasa, and step-son, Anthony.
- Kilday, 29, spent four years in Iraq and Afghanistan as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. He then spent another four years with the National Guard.
He said he'd always wanted to work in public service, so he started in the military to get some experience and then began looking for a firefighting job.
He grew up in Martinez, then spent time in San Luis Obispo, and now lives in Stockton to be closer to work.
- Rowlands, 38, joked that he's older than the other new firefighters, but he said he's always wanted the excitement, constant change and public service that go with firefighting jobs.
The Lodi High School graduate previously taught high school business in Elk Grove, then went to work as a paramedic for American Medical Response.
He lives in Lodi with his wife, Amber, and three children, John, Tyler and Brianna.