FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Donning the uniforms of their instructors, youngsters from Fort Belvoir's Child, Youth and School Services learned what it's like to be a real-life firefighter from those who do it best.

Of course - learning how to wear the uniform was just a small part of their instruction, according to Fort Belvoir Fire Marshall John Weaver.

"We've covered a lot of ground over the course of six classes. They should be really proud of themselves," Weaver said. "They learned how to properly use fire extinguishers; how to stay low in a fire; how to use ladders and, most important, how to work as a team. We can't emphasize that enough."

Weaver, along with Fort Belvoir firefighters Darryl Ferree and Lt. Scott Ross, also taught their apprentices the basics of CPR, such as knowing how to do chest compressions and how to use an automatic electric defibrillator.

It was all part of the CYSS Edge Program, which offers after-school activities to teenagers and other children. T'Erra Proctor, outreach coordinator for CYSS, said she approached the Belvoir Fire Department a few months ago about doing a course like this toward the end of 2009 and that firefighters were more than happy to help.

Things went so smoothly, Proctor would like to introduce the course again this year with the hope that many more kids sign up and participate.

"This was like a real-life boot camp showing a day in the life of a firefighter. It's been just great for our kids," Proctor said. "The firefighters have gone above and beyond what I expected. Kids were eager to learn and they had a lot of fun at the same time."

Duncan Dow, 13, was one of eight who signed up for the course. He was joined by his older brother, 15-year-old Derek; and 13-year-old Bethany Geringer. Along with their other classmates, the trio agreed the course was a blast.

"We've learned a lot and it's been really interesting," Geringer said. "The class was a lot of fun."
Kevin Swain, who has been a firefighter and medic at Belvoir for 15 years, said volunteering is where many firefighters get their start. According to him, the best advice he can give someone interested in becoming a firefighter is to do what he did and learn as much as they can.

"We're all a product of classes just like this. This is how we started," Swain said. "That's why it's been fun for us to teach this group about the things we've learned over the years. One day, we may be passing the torch off to someone in this group."