It would seem to me that spring has finally sprung. The weather is nice, the temperature is moving up into the 60's and the longer days are now with us. We have also witnessed the beginning of the spring season for school trips to our nation's capitol. Countess busses will carry untold thousands of our youngest citizens to see the wonders of our nation's capitol, Washington, DC.
Memories of my own 8th grade trip back in 1961 still come into my mind's eye each time I see the Washington Monument and a number of other historic venues. My friends, I have just returned from the adult equivalent of a class trip to our nation's capitol. Last week was that very special week when fire folks from around the nation journeyed to the Washington, DC to pay homage to the people who control the great federal purse strings in the sky.
We roamed through the halls of power and were exposed to a wide array of interesting informational seminars. Friendships from around the country were renewed, and some new friendships began. I got to meet some really neat people, like the gang from Chandler, Arizona and the gentleman from Bedford, Virginia who pledged undying love for my commentaries. Thank you.
Then there was the fire service caucus dinner itself. This my friends was the 17th annual edition of this pilgrimage to the seat of our nation's political power, Who among us could fail to be dazzled by a ballroom filled with thousands of people committed to one key fire service task -- political butt-smooching. Believe me when I say that I love it my friends. I revel in it. God help me, I love it. However, I digress.
This year it was my feeling that a different approach to Washington was needed. Normally I gather with all of my fellow fire service riflemen at the bottom of the enemy hill, and then when the order comes to charge we all fix bayonets and sally forth to storm the enemy ramparts. Not this year. A new way of doing business was needed.
It was different this time around. Based upon the advice of a number of key associates, I attended all festivities in the stealth mode. Now I know that none of you can picture me sneaking around with a trench coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and a tape recorder, so I just did it my way. It was my choice to approach the entire operation with a closed mouth and an open mind.
This year's soiree to the seat of power was a combination of an 8th grade class trip and an intelligence mission behind enemy lines. In order to widen my perspective, I made this journey with my trusty sidekick Jack Peltier and his boss Tom McGowan from the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.
Our mission was to listen, and that we did. Additionally, our mission was to record what we heard. That we did too. Between the three of us we gathered more than 20 pages of notes. When you add to that the notes scribbled on the paper tablecloth at the Old Glory Rib House and my small pocket notebook, you have the makings of a pretty neat report. My team chose me to be the group leader. So here, my friends, is what we learned on our class trip to Washington, DC.
Sadly, there are some cracks in the great wall of resolve in the American Fire Service. However, I heard a number of comments made by various speakers which told me that truth and straight-shooting are still alive in this world. Unfortunately, these comments also told me that there is some trouble in River City.
Some of the most surprising of these comments addressed one of the open, dirty, little secrets in the fire service. Someone finally stood up in a public venue and spoke of the International Association of Firefighter's campaign against the volunteer fire service.
Frankly my friends, I think it is time that someone called the union on their strong-arm tactics. If I hear one more die-hard union person tell me that I am taking a union person's job by volunteering, I will scream. Before you think that I, as a former union member, am acting like an ingrate, let me set the record straight.