Dan Skinner, 21, of Glendale said he was like most other young boys when it came to career aspirations; he wanted to be a fireman. What sets him, and the 52 other cadets currently being trained at Los Angeles Fire Department Post 12 in Highland Park, is that those feelings never went away.
"I started out like any other kid, except instead of fading away, those feelings got stronger," Skinner.
It's not as if those feelings haven't been tested.
Skinner has been enrolled in LAFD's Cadet program, which provides young men and women an opportunity to learning firefighting and emergency medical response skills first hand while working under the supervision of trained professionals, since he was 14-years-old.
He's now a certified EMT and works a seasonal job as a firefighter for the United States Forest Service. Skinner has also spent hour upon hour riding out to calls with crews across the city.
Through it all, he said, his desire to become a full time Los Angeles Fire Department employee has only grown.
The same can be said for 21-year-old Andres Milroy, a Highland Park resident who has been serving in the cadet program since he was 17-years-old.
Milroy's passion for service was sparked at the age of 12 when, he said, firefighters saved his mother's life.
"My mother had a heart attack," he said. "The fire department came and they took care of her. It was the sense of calm that they brought that really stuck with me."
Those paramedics took a chaotic situation and made it better.
Both Skinner and Milory comport themselves with an air of confidence inside station 12. Though both are keenly aware of their place within the station's defined power structure--which is to say, near the bottom of it--it is clear they've earned the respect of both younger cadets and the trust of the full-time firefighters.
Milroy can, with exacting detail, list the contents of any given medical kit in a Los Angels Fire Department ambulance and describe the function of firefighting implements on cue.
Both Milroy and Skinner are also exceptionally fit, a product of the physical fitness regiment required to stay in shape for regular training exercises and musters that train their capacity against cadets from other stations.
However, the development of physical strength and mental acumen is only part of the overall benefit of taking part in the cadet program.
Skinner and Milroy both noted the emotional strength they've developed as cadets, for which they credit Station 12 Captain Steve Navarro.
That strength is required in myriad ways, whether it be remaining mentally strong through the process of attempting to land a job with LAFD--Skinner and Milroy are two approximately 1,200 applicants seeking approximately 300 open positions--or recovering from traumatic incidents.
"If we ever need to talk about something after an incident, the Captain is always willing to answer our questions," Milroy said. "There's no macho stuff."
"Our whole jobs very humbling. We respond to chaotic situations and we try to make them better," Navarro said. "What I try to make them remember is that we're here as a positive."
Skinner and Milroy are both in the process of applying for jobs with LAFD. Though their experience will help them, it by no means assures them a post.
In the meantime, Milroy, who works part time for a private ambulance company, said he expects to continue spending as much time as possible at Station 12.
"I always tell the guys, I'd rather come here and volunteer for free than go to work and get paid."