Three fire departments welcomed 23 new firefighters May 31 at the graduation of the most recent recruiting academy.

Recruits of the St. George, Prairieville and West Baton Rouge fire departments took part in a graduation ceremony at Woodlawn Baptist Church.

The ceremony marked the culmination of 5½ months of academically and physically challenging training, a news release said.

Members of the St. George Fire Protection District Honor Guard and the Baton Rouge Pipes and Drums opened the ceremony. Following an invocation delivered by the Rev. Lewis Richerson, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, recruit Meg Kling sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

District Chief Administrative Officer Dustin Yates introduced keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, who expressed his appreciation and admiration for those who selected a path of public service that places them in harm’s way, the release said.

Graves recalled a visit to the St. George administration and training facility in February when he got to observe some of the cadets’ training. He said he remembered how dark it was in the burn building as the cadets and training officers entered. He said he had great respect for those who faced danger to protect strangers.

Recruit Dakota Nickens delivered the academy address.

Fire Chiefs Gerard Tarleton, of St. George; Mark Stewart, of Prairieville; and Kenny Hunts, of West Baton Rouge Parish, presented the badges to their recruits. Recruits received their uniform pins from a person they selected and Graves presented each recruit with a graduation certificate.

Tarleton administered the oath of office and thanked the families of the new firefighters for their support. He also reminded those family members that their loved ones would continue to need their support throughout their careers.

To close the ceremonies, the benediction was offered by the Rev. Ken Spivey, of Healing Place Church and chaplain of the St. George Fire Department.

Those graduating and sworn into their respective departments were:

St. George Fire Protection District: Nathan Boudreaux, Joshua Cherry, Austin Ebarb, Austin Facciane, Jaylan Gerald, Steven Getscher, Margaret Kling, Aaron Kowal, Stephen Mitchell, Caleb Reynolds, Michael Ricks, Kevin Rolf, David Schaale, Mitchel Strother and Terrell Stubbs.

Prairieville Fire Department: Chad Barber, Shawn Bourgeois, Michael Esterly, Dakota Nickens and Taylor Ware.

West Baton Rouge Fire Department: James Hartley, Nick Mayard and Trevor Morrow.