Actively participate: When it is time to train there is nothing worse than personnel standing around waiting to be told everything that needs to happen. When the instructor, training officer, company officer or whoever is leading the session gives instruction, dive in and do work.
Read: each time you complete big training courses such as Fire I, Hazardous Materials Operations, or any similar course you leave with the student manuals. We have many of these books lying around that we wonder should I keep these. The answer is easy. Read these books often to review skills or procedures to ensure we are current. Concentrate on those that you do not do often or topics that have been of recent interest to your department in some fashion. Go to the chapter objectives and review questions and see if you can still answer the questions as well or better than you did when you went to the class. If you can't, you have created a reading list. You do not have to read every day or even every week. Set a goal for yourself: one hour, two hours whatever you can afford in your schedule and stick to it. Other great sources for reading include trade magazines. Fire and EMS both have a wealth of these publications available to the service.
Use the Internet: the Internet provides many opportunities for firefighters to train. An example includes the FEMA EMI web site. Some of these courses can even be used for continuing education credits and in college courses. Subscribe to various blog sites and fire service-based web pages. These sites can provide videos to watch related to equipment, skills and critiques from calls around the country that we can learn a great deal from. They can also provide articles based of research done nationally or locally that can be beneficial.
Go to the NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program web site and read the reports from incidents that have had a bad outcome. When you read these, ask yourself "how can I prevent these things from happening to me or my crew." Use all of this information to be proactive to a situation and not reactive after something has already happened.
Attend offered courses: This is an area that can cause contention with some firefighters because they often do not get paid to go to courses away from the department. Some firefighters feel that if they do not get paid, they should not go. You have to ask yourself if this is taking responsibility for your training only you can answer this question. All fire departments have access to this type of training at some level. Go to your training officer or your chief and find out how to get to these programs. Most states have a fire academy or state agency that manages this training. Look at the listed courses and see what is out there. Choose the courses that will help you advance through the fire service in the way that you want to. You can choose advanced firefighter courses if you are new to the service or take instructor level courses if you want to move into training other fire and EMS providers. Attend the officer level courses if you want to be a fire officer at some point or if you just want to understand more about the responsibility officers have.
All of these seem to be very common sense things to do and they are. However you choose to take responsibility for your training is fine, just do something. Try to challenge yourself to always find new ways to train and better yourself. Train often and never be "just a firefighter".