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Brief history of the EMS Class ‘A’ Dress Uniform

Marking the End of the Beginning

By Steve Cohen
President, Lighthouse Uniform

What do Ken Bouvier, John Roquemore, Jim Allen, Jonathan Best, John Fitxsimmons, Marty Stillman and Jenalu Simpson all have in common? They were among leaders of a group of EMTs feeling the time had come to join police and fire at the first responders’ ‘head table.’

The transition in EMS is not unlike what was seen with the garbage men of the last generation who proclaimed, “We are not garbage men; we are sanitation engineers.” It’s a mentality reflected in the Steve Berry’s cartoon in which the character shouts from the top of his rescue vehicle, “We are not ambulance drivers; we are prehospital care providers.”

Vision, attitude, desire and leadership all coalesced in a phone call from John Roquemore in the spring of 2002. John was gearing up to become the president of the NAEMT and was very passionate about the need and value of standardizing and implementing a national EMT Class ‘A’ Dress Uniform.

After numerous phone calls, history lessons and prototypes, samples were readied to present to the EMT community. A space was secured at the 2002 EMS EXPO, a display was created, literature was printed and the EMT Class ‘A’ was presented.

Unfortunately, most who saw the new uniform asked, “Why would anyone want one of those?” It was a major disappointment, but as happens sometimes, the ‘heads’ of the group were pretty far out in front of the ‘body.’

The decision was made to pull back and regroup. A couple years went by before the ‘Roquemore’ Class ‘A’ was reintroduced, again at EMS EXPO. This time, the uniform elicited a far different reaction, as most attendees who visited the display were familiar with the efforts to bring dress uniforms to the EMT community.

The design of the Class ‘A’ uniform is focused on the need to reflect certification, longevity, the myriad sizes within the EMT community, the relationship to the fire service and the desire for a unique EMT look.

The new Class ‘A’ is still working its way into the fabric of America’s EMS world, with the charge being led by John Roquemore and Ken Bouvier in Louisiana and Don Lundy in South Carolina. Interestingly, one of the first organizations to move as a group into the new EMT Class ‘A’ was an honor guard championed by Tim Woods and implemented by Kentucky’s, Boyd County EMS.

The popularity of the Class ‘A’ has even spread beyond North America. Virgin Islands EMS, under the guidance of Supervisor Carman Wheatley, recently purchased uniforms for staff on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.

“It was time for us to look professional,” said Wheatley. “It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

Recent interest has come from the Northeast, led by Marty Stillman and the Rocky Hill Volunteer Ambulance Association and Sandy Smith and Chester New Jersey’s Volunteer First Aid Squad.

Understanding and appreciating the value of this new dress uniform, several ambulance companies made purchases for their “Star of Life” Award recipients to wear at this years AAA “Star of Life” Awards Assembly in Washington, D.C.

It appears there is a bright future for the new EMS Class ‘A’ Dress Uniform as the EMS community marks the end of its beginning, dresses up and takes its rightful place at America’s emergency services ‘head table.’

Steve Cohen
Home of the Fallen Firefighter Dress Uniform Program
For more information, visit Lighthouse Uniform or call 1-800-426-5225.