Hello from the jumpseat. I wanted to take a moment to announce that "I might be a freelancer." It's true and I may be coming to the realization that after all these years this might just be me.
I truly believe that one of the hardest positions on the fireground is the role of follower. When the alarm sounds there are certain tasks that have to be accomplished under the direction of a leader; not me the follower. As your career progresses you will know these tasks like the back of your hand as you begin to learn what it takes to be a leader. Sometimes this can be the hardest thing to do.
I will use myself as the example. With 17 years in the fire service and almost 10 years on the career side, I have not began my rise through the ranks. I know, I know...it should have begun by now, but the tests haven't been available to move up. In the mean time being a firefighter is what I love and while here I have learned so much from the different captains that I have served under. The current captain may be the best one of all; funny because we have completely opposite personalities - he is quiet and me, well you all should know by now! Most important of all is that he respects his firefighter's knowledge, skills, and abilities and allows us to function under him and while we use them.
On our last fire I found myself drifting away from my leader to join the first advancing hoseline. Mistake one - I left my captain. We all know better than that.
As followers we need to be aware of our place in the scheme of things and that is often right beside our captain. Officers have so many things to take care of while arriving on the scene, so it should be our job to be responsible followers and support them.
Sometimes this can be a hard role, especially once you have some time under your belt and know what needs to happen. We all want to be the first person on the line but the fireground has many tasks to accomplish at the same time. Earlier this week a report was issued by the San Antonio Fire Department that said two its firefighters were freelancing and had a very close call.
To finish my story, all ended well because it was a small fire and it was contained pretty fast fast. As the hose was racked and air bottles were filled I came to the realization that I might be a freelancer after all and that's the one thing that the fire service needs to stop.
Was I reprimanded? No. Was I pulled in the office? No. Should I have been? Probably. But that night I learned a lesson from an officer with few words. "Next time you guys leave me, leave me my six foot hook!" Enough said.
It truly is amazing to me that those words, from a man whom I respect, can cause a reflection in me the freelancer. I believe that before you can lead you have to learn to follow and the lessons learned while following will mold you into a leader. Maybe the reason that I'm not an officer is because I haven't learned to follow yet. I can't help but think back to the line from the movie "Top Gun:" "you never leave your wingman." That should be the lesson we all learn from this story because I bet that I am not the only "freelancer" out there.
Thanks for the visit to the jumpseat!
Bunker up, buckle in, and remember that we all start in the jumpseat!