WMFD promotions include first female lieutenant
Chief: ‘ It just takes very special people to do this job’
The West Memphis Fire Department Driver made history during a promotional ceremony Tuesday. A trio of firefighters stepped up in rank. But a twentyfour year veteran of the department broke the glass ceiling and became the first woman to earn an officer rank in the 87-year history of the department and became the first African American woman to ascend the career ladder to a command position.
Brandon Gill, Brian Bedinger and Patricia Roberts were each recognized for earning new ranks and a full house as family and friends and joined firefighters to congratulate those promoted at the ceremony.
Chief Wayne Gately introduced three firefighters who stood for promotion.
The chief pointed to the unique characteristics and dedication of all those involved in the fire service and the dedication of those moving up in rank. Two, Brandon Bedinger and Brandon Gill, advanced for the second time in recent years. Patricia Roberts took the unprecedented step up and became the first woman officer at the West Memphis Fire Department.
Courage was the first touchstone characteristic Gately presented to a full house of family, friends and firefighters.
“When you’ve got people running into a house that everyone else is running out of, it just takes very special people to do this job,” said Gately. “They run to danger instead of away from it. These firefighters go into a hostile environment every time they go into a burning structure not knowing if they will come out alive.
They risk their lives daily to protect life and property.
Today’s promotional ceremony honors the achievement of these firefighters.
These firefighters embody the core values of the fire service, integrity, honor pride respect, valor, dedication, commitment and teamwork.”
Gately said promotion ceremonies were the the most enjoyable part of his job as he prepared to advance the three who earned advancement.
“These fire fighters exemplify all the best this fire department has to offer,” said Gately. “To have everyone here meet all the training requirements for their new positions and I am proud to say they are worthy of their new positions.”
The promotions came in reverse seniority order.
First up was firefighter/paramedic Brian Bedinger who took Sergeant rank as a Driver.
Bedinger earned his second promotion in two years. His father, Barry Ealy, a WMFD Lieutenant proudly pinned the new rank insignia to his son’s collar. As Driver, Bedinger was assigned to the million dollar Ladder One quint on Cshift.
“I charge you with delivering all our firefighters safely to fire scenes,” said Gately. “Are you ready for that?”
“Yes, sir,” came the reply.
Brandon Gill earned advancement from driver to Lieutenant in his second promotion in recent years.
Gill now commands B Shift at Station 3. Gill’s wife, Lindsay, pinned the officers bars after he affirmed the charge delivered by his chief.
“I charge with command responsibilities of this position, the safety of our fire fighters and our citizens, and maintaining your station, personnel and equipment in a state of readiness at all times.”
Finally, Gately announced the promotion earned by the most senior of the trio that advanced this month.
Twenty-four year veteran Patricia Roberts became the first woman officer in the history of the department.
Her promotion presentation received three happy rounds of boisterous ovations, one for the rank, one for being the first woman officer and again for being the first African American female commander. Her family took turns pinning on the new rank insignia.
Roberts had been a driver since 2007 and took command of B-shift at Station 4.
“We’ve had several women on our department, but Pat stayed with us,” said Gately.
The chief delivered the historic perspective. He said promoting an African American woman to an officer was a long time coming for the department.
“The West Memphis Fire Department started as a volunteer department in 1929,” said Gately. “A 16year-old kid got the idea after a couple of serious fires happened. Broadway was a gumbo road then.
That’s a long time until now. We’ve never had a woman promoted to the rank of lieutenant. This is pretty special. Pat’s been on the fire department a long time and it’s my privilege to call her ‘Lieutenant.’”
By John Rech