• Firefighter class reserved for post-9/11 veterans


    BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - There's an ongoing effort nationwide to get veterans back to work after war.

    Locally, a federal multimillion dollar grant helped Brevard County Fire Rescue hire 27 people.

    The need for jobs is great, with hundreds of veterans applying for a handful of positions.

    Brad Balavender and Jason Chen found their calling outside the military.

    The future firefighters secured two of 27 coveted spots on Brevard County Fire Rescue's newest recruit class -- positions saved solely for post-9/11 veterans.

    "It was really tough to get a job for a while," Balavender said.

    The husband and father said it's been hard to support his family.

    The easy part, he said, is transitioning from the front lines to the fire lines.

    "You have the camaraderie in the fire service like the military," Balavender said.

    "There's lots of things that -- the military and (firefighters) can coexist. I can bring skills over there," Chen said.

    The recruits have to go through six months of classroom and field training before they're put to work fighting fires in May.

    The class and firefighters' salaries are paid for by a $3.7 million federal grant to get veterans back to work. Officials said it's filling attrition vacancies.

    Lt. Mike Cogswell doesn't believe there is any worry of laying people off after the grant money is used up.

    About 500 people applied to be part of the class.

    Cogswell said it's one of the sharpest groups he's taught in a while.

    "You're willing to give your life for the guy next to you and you carry that over to the fire service," Balavender said.

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