1. #1
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    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!

    Default Where we've come from...

    I found this little gem on firenuggets.com, and it's worth the read!

    Where We’ve Come From

    By Lou Wilde

    Sometimes with the busy lives we all lead, we too often forget where we’ve come from. It happens to all of us to some extent in our personal lives and our careers. I hope as a chief officer I haven’t lost too much perspective of what it’s like down in the “trenches.” I do recognize that in the past 5-6 years that I have been riding a desk as opposed to the engine, I have lost a little of what came as second nature. I’m sure I could still charge a hand line and set a relief valve correctly, but I don’t get out of bed nine times on a nightshift anymore. I do my best to keep in touch with those who are still doing the job out there every day and night. I hope I am anyway.

    Talking with a fellow chief from a nearby department about this exact subject recently, we discussed the newer junior officers (lieutenants and captains). We both remarked on noticing that every now and then the officer sometimes forgets that he used to be a grunt doing the dirty jobs or how when he was a firefighter he was the smart *** of the group who often challenged the officer on his decision making or openly critiqued the officer with his fellow firefighters. Now as an officer, he has no tolerance for the firefighter he used to be. The shoe’s on the other foot. The same goes for training. Before, as a firefighter, he maybe thought that repetitive drill on the basic skills was pointless, but now as an officer realizing that the onus is on him to keep his people safe and that they may rely on that reflex skill to stay alive.

    Have you ever seen a senior firefighter who’s lost the perspective of where he’s come from? I’m talking about the 7-10 year member. As a career member, he is likely at the top of the firefighters' wage scale and been to some fires and been involved in some pretty cool stuff. These are usually the “untouchable ones,” or so it seems. They’ve hopefully established themselves as a competent and confident firefighter on the tactical stuff where they’ve proven that they know what to do in most cases. They maybe the hardest on the rookies for messing up those simple things that everyone should know. They are likely at the top of their game as accomplished firefighters, but soon they’ll be in the hot seat when they move to that officer’s job and down a notch or two in Maslow’s hierarchy. Reality will hit soon, and they won’t be popping off as much. If you really want to know if complacency has set in on this member, without warning ask him to demonstrate for everyone the emergency procedures for your SCBAs. If he is good, he will know and if not…there is nothing to gain by setting him up for failure in front of his peers; but you get my point.

    I think it is most disappointing when our newer members forget where they have come from. ROOKIES and PROSPECTIVE FIREFIGHTERS LISTEN UP!

    On my job, sometimes these people are referred to as a “5-25,” meaning they’ve been on the job for 5 months and talk like they’ve been around for 25 years. They are easy to recognize; they start every other sentence with “remember when…” as everyone at the coffee table rolls their eyes; and in the most extreme cases they will tell a 10-year-old story (legend) in the first person. It’s sad when these members make the negative comments about paid on-call or volunteer members. I often wonder how they can forget so much so soon.

    I have sat through about 150-200 interviews for prospective firefighter positions. In the fire service we often say that this job is like winning the lottery, and I feel very fortunate to be part of offering that “gift” of a firefighting career to a candidate.

    Of course, I don’t feel that they owe me anything personally for my decision; they’ve earned the right to be there. But I do feel that they owe those who helped to get them there — from their parents who may have sent them to fire school or the wife who looked after everything at home while at fire school to the buddies who helped them study or the volunteer training officer or chief who talked highly of them when called for a reference.

    For those aspiring firefighters to come and those recently appointed new members, I offer the following to help you keep perspective and not forget where you’ve come from:

    You have two ears and one mouth. There is a reason for that. Listen twice as much as you talk.

    You are the new member; you will get the crappy jobs. When it comes to bathroom chores, you get the urinal and toilet; the next senior member gets the sink and mirror.

    You will have more routine duties than the others.

    As a rookie, you will work harder than other firefighters who make more money than you; and you won’t sit as much as the others either.

    The ratio of lies to truths told at the firehouse coffee table is about 3:1. When you see it in a memo, then you know it’s true. Until then, don’t always bite the hook that is trolling out there (refer to rule #1).

    Labor contracts are usually for 2-3 years at a time, so in a 30-year career, you could have between 10-15 contracts. Morale will likely follow the flow of the contract cycle. Sometimes you get a “good”contract, and sometimes it’s not so “good.”

    It may be very likely that your direct supervisor (captain) has less formal education than you do. He may not have gone through the same hiring process that you did. But he has been there and done the job that you’re doing.

    You are a public servant. There are no Christmas bonuses and no commissions.

    You will get out of bed nine times during a nightshift.

    You will have to comfort the old granny that calls from time to time for reassurance more so than actual medical care since her husband died.

    You will be expected to show compassion for those street people that you used to ignore.

    The bed at work will not be as comfortable as the one at home, but I guarantee that it’s better than the bed at your old job.

    When a retired member comes into the coffee room, introduce yourself, because it’s likely nobody else will; offer him your chair and fetch him a coffee.

    Don’t bother letting people know that you’re no longer on probation; they likely don’t care.

    Your 50-year-old captain may not tell you that you’re doing a good job, but he will let you know when you’re not.

    When the economy is good and there is a building boom on, painters and drywallers will make more money that you.

    When there is a recession, your wage will stay the same while painters and drywallers will be happy to just find work for whatever they can make or be forced to change professions.

    Be proud of your department but humble about your career. Not everyone is impressed by the cheesy T-shirts and ball caps.

    Not all women love firefighters. There are zillions of ex- wives and girlfriends who will back me up on this one.

    If our job is to protect lives, property and the environment, it takes maintenance, prevention, investigation, administration, pub ed, and training staff to make it all happen. You might have the sexy job that gets your picture in the paper, but it takes more than the suppression branch to put our product out the door each day.

    Do the next rookie a favor and fill him in on what he needs to know, and remember not to forget where you came from.

    It may sound like a cheesy way to sum it up, but in order to know where we’re going, we need to remember where we’ve come from. Sometimes the longer we’ve been on that path, the more difficult it is to remember and sometimes we just simply forget.

    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  2. #2
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    Feb 2005


    The best and truest statement that i have read in a long time!!

  3. #3
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    BKDRAFT's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Bay Area, California

    Thumbs up

    Thanks Cap!

  4. #4
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    MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Mar 2002
    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.

    Thumbs up

    Sometimes its one of the hardest lesssons to learn as a Leader, but a very important one. Thanks Cap!

  5. #5
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    cozmosis's Avatar
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    Jan 1999


    We both remarked on noticing that every now and then the officer sometimes forgets that he used to be a grunt doing the dirty jobs or how when he was a firefighter he was the smart *** of the group who often challenged the officer on his decision making or openly critiqued the officer with his fellow firefighters. Now as an officer, he has no tolerance for the firefighter he used to be. The shoe’s on the other foot.
    Shortly after I became an officer, I went to my old captain and apologized if I ever came across as an A-hole to him. Once I started doing the job from his perspective, I realized that I might have run my mouth a little much from time to time as an engineer.

    Some of the personality traits that annoy me now are some of the same traits I probably exhibited when I was younger & dumber. I hope that's just God punishing me a bit -- not me getting old prematurely and "forgetting where I've come from."

  6. #6
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    Dickey's Avatar
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    Feb 2000


    Excellent post!!!!

    Cosmosis....At least you had the balls to go to your officer and apologize. I'm sure it was just a younger you being cocky.
    Jason Knecht
    Township Fire Dept., Inc.
    Eau Claire, WI

    IACOJ - Director of Cheese and Whine

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