My 2011 Class Trip to Washington

Let me share with you a number of my observations on how things went in Washington, D.C. Yes my friends, it is that time of the year. Spring is in the air and the flowers are in bloom in many parts of the nation. Once again, the fire service faithfuls...


Let me share with you a number of my observations on how things went in Washington, D.C. Yes my friends, it is that time of the year. Spring is in the air and the flowers are in bloom in many parts of the nation. Once again, the fire service faithfuls have completed their 2011 pilgrimage to the halls of our nation's political power. You know, that is the place where all of the fertilizer for those flowers originates.

The events this spring have been interesting. I have seen the fire service come together in a much stronger way this year. It seems as though the theme of one of Pastor Scott Brown's Lenten sermons has made its way into the world of the American Fire Service. His April 3, 2011 sermon at the Colts Neck Reformed Church was entitled, "Everybody's Won When Everyone is One."

Quite simply he spoke of the importance of coming together. He spoke of the problems caused by discord among people. One of the primary aspects of this program which impressed me was the fact that people often fail to recognize the damage done by their discord.

It is almost as though he had heard Bobby Halton's fabulous main program speech on the importance of teamwork, which was presented at the Fire Department Instructor's Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis back in March. It is almost as though he had a premonition about what FEMA Director Craig Fugate was going to tell us at the fire caucus dinner during his keynote address. But how could he?

As I sat there next to my wife thinking and scribbling my notes, I surely agreed with him that far too much of our time is being spent today battling demons, both real and imagined. One of these battles involves those people who are inexorably bound to the ways of the past.

These folks really can see no reason to change the way things are done in their part of the fire service. But given the state of our economy here in America, this is surely a season where forging new relationships is critical. We are all facing unprecedented pressure to do more with less. Sorry gang, but the only thing you can really do with less, is less.

During the month just past, I have seen a great many good things. Thankfully these serve as a counterbalance to the not-so-good things we have all witnessed. I have also heard some really neat thoughts spoken by members of the fire service at the national level. It has long been my opinion that we all needed to be operating from the same sheet of music when it comes to working for the greater good of the fire service. I have seen a new model and it looks pretty good so far.

It was at FDIC that I heard a stirring example of the unity which our fire service really needs during these trying economic times. I heard words of friendship and camaraderie from a national leader within our nation's labor movement.

These words came from Harold Schaitberger, the General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. He reminded us all about the coming economic storm he alluded to at last year's FDIC. He spoke of the many examples of fire department cuts around our nation. Mr. Schaitberger spoke of the fact that both the career and volunteer fire service are under attack. He told us that, "…we are all in this together."

He then went on to say that we are all just holding our own. He spoke of the trend among politicians to balance their budgets on the backs of those people who are actually doing the work within the public sector. As a resident of New Jersey, I am most familiar indeed with the efforts of our governor to portray those of us in the public as being greedy and consuming far too much of the public's money. This is pretty tough talk from a man who has yet to put in the state's share of money for our pension funds. Ah, but I digress on a point of personal privilege.

Mr. Schaitberger went on to state that, "… it is a time for us all to come together."

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