Nearly a year after they walked off the Bluffton High School graduation stage with job offers in hand, two best friends are now responsible for protecting the town they graduated in.
Tyler Griffin and Matthew Wallet have been on shift for a month for the Bluffton Township Fire District after successfully completing recruit school and all the training that followed their 2016 graduation.
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They were surprised on the stage last year by members of the fire district who announced their conditional job offers to become firemen.
“It was really a surprise,” Wallet said of his graduation day. “We didn’t really know what was happening at the time.”
“They were calling us on stage as an Explorer group or whatever and it ended up just being Matt and I,” Griffin said. “We were like, ‘that’s kind of odd,’ and all of our chiefs and officers came up on stage and we thought something big was going on.”
The pair had just put in their applications to become firefighters for the fire district, Griffin said after completing the district’s Explorer Post — a programed designed to offer firefighter training to Bluffton High students between the ages of 15 and 20, according to Capt. Randy Hunter.
“It was a huge surprise and amazing because all of our friends and family were there,” Griffin said. “It showed that all of our hard work paid off and that the department cared about us and wanted to do that for us.”
The two have been friends for five years.
Griffin joined the Explorer Post a year after Wallet, whose father and step-grandfather were both firemen in Maryland.
“Some of us have family members in (the profession), and it ... gives you a taste of what firefighters do. It’s a good buildup to being a firefighter.”
The program meets once a week and some weekends to offer students the opportunity to shadow firefighters on scenes and participate in training.
“My first ride along, we had lights and sirens going and it just hit me ‘I want to do this,’” Griffin said of the program.
Since then, the pair have successfully completed 10 weeks of recruit school and five weeks of EMT training. The next two years, they said, will be full of additional training and promotions.
The training has been a fast-paced road to maturity, they said.
“I’ve definitely done a lot of growing up within the last year,” Griffin said. “All my buddies are in college and stuff and having a good time, and I’m over here working hard.”
In the meantime, they had some advice for any younger firefighter hopefuls.
“Really just stay on the books, study and be on top of everything,” Wallet said. “Don’t be afraid to go out and meet firefighters. If you aren’t a firefighter yet, just go to the station, say hey, get your face out there and just talk.”
Those interested in joining the Explorer Program may email Marcos Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Hunter at 843-548-4349.