A father pinned on his son’s firefighter insignia during Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department’s latest training class graduation Oct. 22, just as his son as a boy had pinned on the father’s insignia 16 years ago.
Father Joseph Cook and son Jacob Cook are now both firefighters with RRFR, albeit at different stations, per city policy.
RRFR Acting Fire Chief Jimmy DeFillippo said the department’s seven-person Class 16 was “kind of unique because we combined a cadet academy with a lateral academy. The cadets did a combined 18 weeks and the laterals did eight weeks.”
The laterals — those with previous experience in the field — helped mentor the cadets.
Cynthia Cook still has the article from the Albuquerque Journal in November 2005, with a photo of her husband, Joseph, being pinned upon completion of his Third Academy Class by their 6-year-old son, Jacob.
“I remember it very clearly,” Jacob, now 22, said recently, proud to have returned the honor.
“He grew up kind of around us,” DeFillippo recalled.
Jacob (Class of 2017) played two seasons of varsity baseball at Rio Rancho High School, starting in left field in the 2016 state championship loss to Carlsbad.
“Jacob was a hard-working player in our program,” recalled RRHS baseball coach Ron Murphy. “He played the game hard and really came on for us his senior year.
“I am not surprised he became a firefighter as he has a great role model in his dad, who coached for us,” Murphy added. “I am very proud of Jacob and know he will do great things as a firefighter.”
Joe had been a high school baseball player at Del Norte and assisted Murphy a few seasons.
Neither father nor son originally planned to be a first responder.
Joe first dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but found a job with Delta Airlines, where he was ramp manager. When he decided he wanted to be a firefighter, he was 35 and a decade older than the next-oldest in his training class.
Jacob also had dreams of playing professional baseball, and figured if that didn’t work out, something in the medical field was an option. He attended New Mexico State University, but decided he’d rather work in his hometown.
Recalling all the good times he’d enjoyed hanging around Station 1 on his dad’s workdays — “I was everywhere; I loved being around all the stuff there, the big trucks” — he decided to try it.
Joe had advice for Jacob: “Treat the community like you’d want to be treated as a community member.”
Academy Class 16
Rounding out Academy Class 16 are Jullian Encinias, Joshua Martinez, Neil Pablo, Joshua Wade, top cadet Scott Yarbrough and Dennis Chavez, son of Rio Rancho Police Officer Martha Chavez.
The class’s motto was “One team. One family. No excuses. Never quit.”
“Our bond with each other is strong,” Yarbrough said in his address. “Despite aches and pains, we never had an excuse — we never quit, no matter how hard it got.”
DeFillippo said the laterals came from New Mexico.
He added that, “Some were volunteers who were working in the hospital service as EMTs but had the all the certifications to be laterals. (And some) maybe left the fire service for a little bit and decided they missed it and wanted to come back.
“… This group of seven has been very impressive; they’ve rolled with the punches.”
DeFillippo promised the audience that RRFR would take good care of the graduates.
“There’s nothing more fulfilling than helping your fellow man in times of need,” he said.
The new class brings the department’s roll to 110.