A few weeks back I wrote a commentary about the concept of sharing what you know. My gripe with the fire service was that the tacit knowledge acquired by veterans during their years of service was not being shared with the younger members who will be around long after us old dogs have stopped learning tricks of any kind.
This week's visit with you is the start of that effort on my part. While I will not be doing this every week, I will slot in a periodic commentary specifically targeted to an area of knowledge which my buddies in the veteran's camp have come to view as gospel. Here it goes.
Congratulations my friend. You have just been placed in a new position of responsibility within your fire department. Maybe you have undergone an extensive period of studying, promotional examinations and personal interviews. Then again you may have been elected by your friends to this new position. There are also those among you who may periodically end up in the right front seat in an acting capacity.
You are probably feeling pretty good about yourself right about now. I know that any promotion I ever received was a time for good cheer and celebration. So spend a bit of time enjoying yourself. There is nothing wrong with reflecting upon your success. Take the time. You have earned it.
However my friends, no matter how you got to the point where you are today, be ready for the letdown. There is always a letdown of some sort after each moment of joy. So it has been throughout my career in the fire service. I can recall my first time in the right front seat in the U.S. Air Force. It happened to be in the spring of 1968.
I had spent a great deal of time studying and felt that I was ready for the new job and its attendant duties and responsibilities. That made one of us who felt I was ready. I was assigned as a crew chief on a crash-rescue vehicle at the crash station on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Today you would call me an ARFF guy.
My problems came not from the close inner circle of friends I had nurtured during my time as a driver and firefighter. Most of us had attended training school together at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. These folks knew me quite well and knew that I would have their interests at heart. No my friends, the problems came from other places.
There were those who felt that they had been gypped by the system. They felt that since they had been in the service longer than me, they should have been promoted ahead of me. They took their frustrations out on me. What they failed to note was the number of things my associate and I had done to prepare ourselves for leadership roles.
I had a number of college credits on my record and worked hard to do the right things. Correspondence classes, previous job experience, and a great deal of extra work within the fire department allowed me to grow as an individual and impress my superiors with the quality of my work and the level of my dedication. So too it was with my buddies who were promoted at the same time as me.
My roommate and I spent a great deal of time working with our fire prevention division. Each month he would don the costume of Sparky the Fire Dog, while I wore the Smokey the Bear suit for our public education effort. It was fun for us and had a strong positive impact upon the dependent children at Eielson Air Force Base. We went about the call of duty.
So I felt qualified for the responsibilities I was given. That did not make it any easier to endure the snide remarks and backstabbing actions of others. There were a few of us in the same boat and I guess we looked to each other for the strength to endure the onslaught of negativity which we faced.
There were those who tried to play the cards of oppression and prejudice. They stated that a number of us were promoted because of our race. I discovered early on that one can never control what other people will think. You will also learn early on that not everyone is a supporter and encourager of your career. They have plans for themselves, and you are not on their radar screen.