Firefighters and family members gathered at the Odessa Fire Rescue Central Fire Station Friday to recognize and officially swear in the newest recruits to OFR.

The ceremony included the swearing in of five new firefighters and one fire investigator. Fire Chief John Alvarez kicked the ceremony off at about 1:30 p.m., recognizing the graduates and the family members who came to support them and welcoming them all to the OFR family.

“This is a very challenging career,” Alvarez said. “It’s a career that can be hazardous as well. You, the family, are who challenged them, motivated them, and encouraged them to be here today.”

Before the badge pinnings began, Alvarez took time to tell the audience about the Maltese cross, the symbol represented on the firefighter’s badge.

“The Maltese cross is a symbol of protection,” he said. “The Maltese cross is the firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he or she works under courage.”

After being sworn in, each of the six recruits then had their parent, their spouse or their friend come up and pin their badge onto their chest.

Following the badge pinning, each of the newly sworn in firefighters received their helmet, complete with a red rookie badge at the front, which will be upgraded to a black badge following another year of training and testing.

“The helmet is recognized around the world as part of the fire service,” Alvarez told those in attendance.

Steven Ponce De Leon, one of the five firefighters sworn in, said it felt extremely fulfilling to finally become a firefighter, as it had been a goal of his for the last five years.

“I just watned to do something in my life that had meaning,” Ponce De Leon said.

Kimberly Salaam, a former police officer, said it felt good to be sworn in as a fire investigator.

“It seemed like a good chance to get out with the community,” Salaam said.

The five firefighters sworn in were part of an initial 40 applicants last October, Alvarez said, which was later whittled down to 12, and they were the only five to graduate the firefighter program.

Alvarez said afterward the firefighters would be starting on their shifts immediately, some of them Friday and some this weekend, and Salaam would start as an inspector on Monday.

Meet the new firefighters

>> Garren Mayfield

>> Caleb Kenner

>> Steven Ponce De Leon

>> Shane Dolgener

>> Alan Roach

>> Kimberly Salaam