1. #1
    FutureFireFighter
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Starting out: Military, Volunteering or College???

    From my knowledge the military is a good way to start in FF. I've met a lot of people and random department's in Everett, WA. that have started this way. Because of these people's military experience they have been able to breeze through the oral, physical and written tests. I am going to be graduating from high school in June and I'm really trying to make a decision how I want to start out my career in FF. The things I have been thinking about are:
    1.The Military
    2.Volunteering
    3.College
    I would appreciate some input on your opinions on the best way to get involved. Basically what would you suggest out of these 3 options and why? Thanks for you time.
    Be safe

    ------------------
    Desirae Knowles

  2. #2
    nsfirechap
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Talking

    I started out in the Air Force, not necessarily by choice. I enlisted in 77 as I wanted to serve my country and a lot of other patriotic reasons. Did't choose firefighter, but I'm glad the choice was made for me.Spent twenty years in the AF, spending the first four and last 10 as a firefighter serving with FD's in Alaska, England, Florida, and Italy.
    The first thing to remember if you go in the military and have your heart set on firefighting is DO NOT ENLIST WITHOUT A GUARANTEED JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Also, you must remember the choice of where you go is not always yours. I ended up in a few places I'd rather not have been and at times had to leave my family at short notice for places I did not wnat to go.
    Also, we may be in a "peacetime" military but there is always the chance of hostilities breaking out. Firefighters, especially in the Air Force are not always in the rear. I was expected to be a firefighter and if need be a warfighter. (I have some intersting photos of me in bunkers a gas mask and a gun!
    I would not have changed anything I loved the AF but things are certainly different in a civilian departmnet.
    Bottom lines in the military is the pay is good, the chance for travel is AWESOME, but there are sacrifces. If you are willing to make these sacrifices and can get the job, the training and experience is great.
    Let me know if I can be of any more assistance.

    Jeff

  3. #3
    DS7053
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Going from my experience and from where I live I did a combination of both volunteering while going to college. If you start out as a volunteer you can alot of basic knowledge of what the fire service is about and decide if want to keep pursuing it as a career. In addition it can give you a little edge when it comes to testing time over a person who has no fire experience. Like I said I also got a degree in Fire Science from a local college going to college will enable you to meet people and if you take a Fire Science class or Public Safety class you can learn even more and talk to other people in the field. You can NEvER go wrong when it comes to more College or schools. You can always learn somrthing from somebody. Good luck and hopefully this helps you a little.

  4. #4
    Boothby
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Cool

    Hey Desirae,
    I spent 8 years in the military(US Navy) stationed right down in Bangor WA. I also voluteered for Kitsap County Fire District #1 which is now Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. If what you truly want to do is become a fire fighter then DON'T JOIN THE MILITARY. The Airforce is the ONLY branch that has actual fire fighters. All other branches use contract services like Johnson Controls, or federal fire fighters for fire suppression. Experience in the military is not a garuntee that you will breeze through the testing. All the military will do is give you some discipline and confidence. You can get the same thing from going to college, if you truly apply yourself. I'm telling you all this from personal experience and testing at departments like Seattle, Everett, Kent, and Kitsap County. Preparing for testing requires ALOT of work both study and physical. The competition for jobs is tremendouse. I would routinly see the same faces testing all over the state. My recomendation is go to college and get a fire science degree. Many small departments are now demanding that you have it prior to submitting and application. They also require that you be and EMT. The military will not get this for you. Find a department that has a resident firefighter program, like Kitsap county, where you live at the fire station and work 12 hr shifts. Go to college and get your degree. Get your EMT certificate (alot of departments will pay for you to get it if you are a member). Go to the state fire academy, again alot of resident programs will pay for this. Finally get yourself in shape. You don't need the military to do that, it only takes motivation. I am not trying to be down on the military, but the only time you get an actual benifit from being in the military is if you are a combat veteran in a war, then they give you some extra points in testing. Otherwise you have no advantage over the next guy who walks in, and in many cases if the other guy spent 4 yrs concentrating on getting on the job vs 4 yrs in the military doing God knows what. Well the other guy will get the job. Finally I will tell you this from experience. Military recruiters will tell you ANYTHING to get you to join. They will lie through their teeth, because once you sign the papers the military owns you and they can send you anywhere they want to do anything they want regardless of what some recruiter told you.

    Don't get me wrong. I am very proud of my military service. I rode submarines in the navy for alot of years. But when it came to helping me get hired it didn't do squat. I spent alot of time an energy at 30+ years old trying to play catch up to guys that were 20, who had never spent a minute in the military but had been concentrating on getting hired at a fire department. If I can help in any way send me an e-mail. Good luck and go to college.

    ------------------
    Larry Boothby
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    Truck 3 A-shift
    Local 1784
    Memphis.

  5. #5
    nsfirechap
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    One thing I should have added, and PLEASE DO NOT GET ME WRONG - I AM NOT TRYING TO TALK YOU INTO THE AIR FORCE.
    While in I was able to work on my fire science degree, attend a whole bunch of National Fire Academy Classes and get my EMT. Also, the Air Force training is now on line with the International Fire Service Accreditation Program so all training leads to national certification. On of the reasons the Air force got a lot of firefighters was and is that the jobs are so hard to find on the outside.
    Good Luck.

    Jeff

  6. #6
    mfgentili
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I don't know about Washington state, but in Massachusetts, military veterans get preferance in hiring in those departments under civil service. That includes most career departments in the state. Disabled vets get top preferance with all other veterans right behind. It doesn't matter which branch or even if you have any firefighting training in the service as long as you are considered a veteran. National Guard or Reserve Active Duty for Training does not qualify for veteran status. Nor does time served outside of that declared as war time by congress. The current period started with the Gulf War and is still open as far as I know. It would be worth checking out with the Veterans Administration. As for college degrees or volunteering, it has some bearing, but only slightly, based on on a predetermined experience formula which is then added to your test score. So at least here in Massachusetts, the military is by far the best way to secure a full time firefighting position. Check with all the departments you are interested in and see what they suggest. Good luck in your endeavor.

  7. #7
    RyWfd
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I'll start by saying...Do some Research!... Where is it that you want to serve? A local department where you live(i.e., serve your community?? Or would you rather work for a large dpartment elsewhere? What is that gets you going about the job? Firefighting? Rescue? Both? Thats where I fall in... I like it all! I'm on the job where I was born. My family and everything I do is here. I for one am glad I didnt take a job elsewhere.
    Now, going about "getting in". I know that Washington is a forefront in the fireservice. Try checking out some of the local departments as well as some of the large ones in and around where you live. Some departments offer all the training you'll need (or make it available to you) While others want some experience. A good way to get training, experience, and a place to stay is through an intern program. I know of a couple of departments here in my area that do this. They provide a place to stay as well as training as long as you ride a company when your available.(In House). That gets you experience as well.
    Some schools offer a Fire Science program which can get you some education. I attend school at night here. As well as take classes via the internet. "Yes you to can get a Fire Science degree online".
    So realize what it is that you want to do and where you want to do it. Find out from them what they require (remember the investigate the company you want to work for theory?). Hey, it can get people familiar with seeing you around and seeing that your intrested...Ry

  8. #8
    west30capt
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    I started in a fire dept explorer group at the ripeful age of 15. Volunteered all through high school. After graduation a was going to enlist in the Air Force as a fire fighter. With one catch. I went through the whole process, phyical and all. They tried to tell me I have to pick a second job in case they can't use me as a fire fighter. They tried to make me and aircraft mechanic. I told them where to go and never enlisted. After that I attended college and got a degree in Fire Science Technology. I've only taken 3 test since I finished school but each one of those the veterans preference is what kept me from getting a job. So now I'm debating on trying to enlist again. So what I'm trying to say is, if you can volunteer, then after high school go to the military. I'd say the Air Force, but the Navy has firefighters too. And one of the best firefighters I know was a naval firefighter. And while you in the Military get a degree in Fire Science. Like somebody else said, alot of departments are now requiring you have at least an associates degree. Then you'll have the education, experience, and the veterans preference on exams to help you out. But this whole post is my opinion and what I wish I would have done. You'll have to check with each brance of service to find out more info.

  9. #9
    Brian Pratt
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Wink

    Desirae,
    I'm not going to tell you what you should do because I don't know you, but I will tell you what I did. I spent six years in the USN on an aircraft carrier and volunteered for five before getting hired. I have to disagree with Larry Boothby on some of his points, although it does sound like Wash. state is different than NY state in it's requirements. The Military experience was the biggest factor for me in taking the civil service exam. Navy promotional exams are very similar and I scored No. 1 on my local test.( I also studied for a year and that helped too). I also recieved 5 extra points on the test just for being a vet, not for being in combat. Larry is also mistaken in that the Navy does have it's own FF's. They are called Damage Controlmen. On my ship the "DC"'s responded to all fires, flooding and aircraft mishaps. They also took care of the fire system maintenance and had a few other duties as well.
    But anyway, I'm getting off the track. The only thing I will strongly recommend is time in a volunteer dept. That kind of experience helps after you are hired. Mostly as a confidence booster.

    Good luck and be safe.

    [This message has been edited by Brian Pratt (edited December 29, 1999).]

  10. #10
    GILLEE
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Something I haven't seen mentioned yet...

    If you do decide to go the school/volunteer route, as you contemplate which volunteer department you want to join, look for combination ft/pt departments. You will have a lot better odds for promotion to full time here than you will at some of the bigger city tests where there are thousands of applicants.

    Also, if you are going to do it, do it. Run every test that you can, even if you might not neccessarily want to be in that city. The experience at testing and interviewing is priceless.

    Good luck from another gonnabe...

  11. #11
    Mal Miller
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Smile

    A college degree is becoming a must for just about every job. Don't forget about the National Guard and the college tuition payments. Also, many volunteer departments near a college have a live in program for Students in fire science. You get room and board in exchange for pulling volunteer shifts. Some colleges have this program also for the on campus fire station. For example, the Frenchtown Montana Volunteer department has several U of Montana students as volunteers who live in the fire hall. They do not get paid but get room and board. Coupled with Nat. Guard service, you would get a couple of hundred dollars a month for drills plus the tuition assistance. Finish the cost with scholarships or student loans. Keep the loans as little as possible. Also, just a tip, move to the state where you are going to school long enough in advance to avoid out of state tuition. You may have to work for a year before going to school. Get that degree as it is becoming required for almost any job with a future. I know because I did not get a degree and it has really held me down. Anyway, just some thoughts. 50 cents and my opinion will get you a cheap cup of coffee. Good Luck.

  12. #12
    Steamer
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Ohio gives 20% bonus points on a passing score (70%)for civil service entrance exams. I have known of several qualified, well trained, and experienced applicants whose names never came to be considered because their scores weren't high enough to overcome the military bonus. In spite of most of their scores being in the high 80's and 90's. Somehow it doesn't seem quite fair that preference is given military service, regardless of MOS, yet nothing is given for any fire service training/experience as a civilian. I guess that's another topic.
    I guess my point is that if your state gives similar preferences, you have to decide if you feel you can compete with others who can have a higher score than you after their military bonus, even if you score 100% with no military service. Regardless of what you decide, good luck and don't get discouraged.

    ------------------
    Steve Gallagher
    Chillicothe (Ohio) Fire Department


    [This message has been edited by Steamer (edited December 30, 1999).]

  13. #13
    Boothby
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post

    Brian you are right the navy does have damage controlmen, and if you want to learn about shipboard firefighting then the Navy is the place to be. But shipboard fire fighting and structural fire fighting are two different things. Also in most fire departments today you have to get your EMT cert. I don't know about you but I don't know many DC's that double up as corpsmen. I did my share of fire fighting in the Navy. On submarines we don't have DCs so everybody has to know how to fight. One thing I did learn, after 8 yrs of the Navy and coming up on my 8th year fighting structural fires, is that the two are very different. If Desire wants to go in the military to be in the military then go for it there are alot of worse things you can do and the military is a good life. But if Desire wants to be a civilian firefighter then go to college and then go be a firefighter.

    ------------------
    Larry Boothby
    Firefighter/Paramedic
    Truck 3 A-shift
    Local 1784
    Memphis.

  14. #14
    jamespaul
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation

    GET AN EDUCATION first. you can always volunteer while you are at college. Some colleges in the east have their own fire dept. on or close to campus. In the long run if you become a professional firefighter you will probably need some higher education for promotion or even entry. The fire service is changing every day. More public scrutiny and more administration type duties are being put into our job.
    I have a degree, and I know that in order to be a chief on my job they are going to start requiring at least a four year degree. Go to college and volunteer if you can, or take some tests, but don't let it sidetrack your education.

    p.s. college is more fun than the military!! lots more "social" activities!!

  15. #15
    dousaems
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    Nice to hear you are planning ahead. I think I can give some insight into your dilemma. I was offered a four year free ride through college from both the Army and Air Force. Wanted to become an engineer. I figured that after college, I had quite a few years to serve, and was not really into it.
    What happened was that I went to college on my own, changed my degree field 5 times, got to work at the same time and make some money, volunteered at the local station, and finally became a paramedic 4 years after graduating high school. This route gave me more flexibility.
    I now work in a field where military experience is preferred, and pretty much dominates the market. But I have 5 years more experience than other medics my age. If I could go back, I might have done the Reserve thing, just for the additional credentials. But it will be a lot of work regardless.
    I wish the best of luck to you. You will continue to get a lot of input, but remember, it's YOUR decision.

    ------------------
    Todd Dousa
    NREMT-P, CCEMT-P

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