With over 18 years in the fire service, I have been affiliated with several fire departments spanning from my young volunteer days, to career civilian, to military. I have also been fortunate to be invited to present and teach at several conferences in many states. I have met some of the best men and women I have ever known. But I have also watched as we slowly lose and allow to erode something so very important to who we are.
We are losing the one "thing" that made the fire service the special profession it once was; the "thing" that gave us the confidence to go rushing into places that others raced from in terror because those charging forward knew they were not going alone. "You go, we go" was the Hollywood expression that encapsulated what we were about and which bonded us when the situation, environment, and even the world, seemed to turn and come against us. The "thing" to which I am referring to is "Brotherhood."
It didn't matter if you were male or female - Brotherhood wasn't a term defined by gender, it wasn't defined by race, religion, culture, or any other classification society strives to equalize globally. It was a title bestowed upon select individuals who had earned it and lived up to it daily; to individuals who proved that they would be by your side in and out of the fire station no matter how tough things may have become.
This was a title many recruits bled and sweat to earn. It shaped them not only as a firefighter, but it also shaped them as individuals in their personal lives. You don't work hard for something like that unless you want it. You don't want something like that unless it comes from somewhere deep inside. You cannot rise to the level of trust in which another places their life unquestionably into your hands without it transforming you as a person.
Sadly, today we are bringing disgrace to that title and all it is supposed to mean. If we allow this to continue, our profession will become just another job that involves punching a time card. Success will no longer be defined upon lives saved and differences made, but how quickly one climbs the rank ladder and what a paycheck says every two weeks. Rank will no longer be respected for what the gold says about person and who they are as an individual, but respected because department policy says you have to. For volunteers, the loss of this meaning will be, and has been, devastating. We have to save it and you reading this have to make a stand and be a Guardian of the Brotherhood.
To better understand what I am referring to let me tell you a factual cautionary tale: The United States Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps is a military organization so respected and feared throughout the world that the mere appearance of a Marine unit upon a foreign shore is deemed an "aggressive show of force" by other nations. The Corps is an organization with the toughest standards amongst the U.S. military (outside of special operations forces), and it is well established that Marines are a cut above the rest. When the President of the United States boards or leaves his aircraft, or stands in the Rose Garden to talk to the world about the values of America, one simply has to look to his left and right. The Marine Corps defines and illustrates the best of who we are supposed to be as a nation. Even in a Hollywood production to make a movie's character more feared and respected it is written into that character's background that they were once a Marine.
Any current or former Marine can readily recall the following historic tail from memory: One of the battles of World War I became known as the battle of Belleau Woods, and during this battle, due to the ferocious nature with which the Marines fought, the captured German soldiers referred to them as "Teufelshunden," or "Dogs of Hell," which was then transformed into "Devil Dog!"