Serving as a leader throughout the College of the Mainland Fire Academy, Garrett Bridges, of League City, won the Class President Award. From left, Chief Stan Kozlowski, Garrett Bridges and Capt. James Short.At the College of the Mainland Fire Academy ceremony celebrating 11 graduates, Michael Hester earned the Highest Class Average Award. From left, Chief Jason Jackson, Chief Stan Kozlowski, Michael Hester, Capt. James Short and COM Director of Fire Technology Danny McLerran.

After completing 640 hours of training from “thousands of pushups” to hacking ventilation holes in a roof, 11 College of the Mainland Fire Academy cadets graduated this month.

Two students stood out – Garrett Bridges, of League City, won the Class President Award and Michael Hester, also of League City, earned the Highest Class Average Award.

“The class president will handle some of the paperwork. When we do a job like cleanup we allow him to assign jobs to the group,” said Danny McLerran, director of the COM Fire Academy. “Both of them did very well academically."

With a business degree from Sam Houston State University, Bridges began serving with the League City Volunteer Fire Department last July and decided to become a full-time firefighter.

“I wanted to have the proper training and the right tools to make the biggest difference in someone’s worst day,” said Bridges. “The job requires a lot of physical ability. It’s an exhausting job. We’ll go up and down stairs until we can’t anymore. We did thousands of pushups.”

Bridges plans to attend the COM Emergency Medical Services Program this summer to be certified as an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic, a requirement to serve as a paid firefighter in Texas.

“What sets COM’s Fire Academy apart is the instructors are from all over the place—Texas City, Missouri City, Galveston,” said Bridges. “You get not just how one department does it but all the others.”

Hester also volunteers with the League City Fire Department. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a firefighter, he joined the COM Fire Academy.

One of the most challenging aspects of the academy for him was the “endurance burn.”

“You’re working for 45 minutes to an hour. You do a primary search and fire extinguishment,” said Hester.

COM Fire Academy instructors – all of whom have served or currently serve on fire departments – spurred Hester’s commitment.

“All of the instructors stayed on us,” said Hester. “They want you to succeed.”

The COM Fire Academy prepares students to receive Basic Fire Suppression Certification with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, required in order to be a career firefighter in Texas.

The program offers a day and night fire academy each year.

For more information on the COM Fire Academy or continuing education, visit or call 409-933-8285.