The following is a letter that I sent to Capt. Bob last night that he has encouraged me to share with everyone. It can be done folks -- even us old guys can get the badge.

=========

Capt. Bob,

Just wanted to say thank you.

On Friday I got the call that so many have waited so long for. It was the chief from the first and only department I tested with asking me to join his department. I managed to maintain my composure just long enough to schedule a meeting with him for today and get him off the phone.

After that I let out a yell that left my partner's ears ringing worse than the siren on our ambulance.

I came late to the fire service. I didn't always want to be a fire fighter. I'm 37, and I've only been a volunteer for two and a half years. And I didn't decide this was what I wanted for a career until a year ago.

But as you've said many times, when you make the decision, make the
committment. I did. I left my former line of work, took a big pay cut to work on a commercial ambulance service, and started paramedic school. It's the medic school that got me the job. The department I'll be working for needs medics so badly they're willing to take people still in school, and put them on the line, as long as they complete and maintain their medic license.

It was your advice that pushed me into the school and ultimately got me the job. In my area, having your medic greatly improves your odds of getting hired. Since I started school, a big department that has no EMS requirements had 15 open positions, they got 350 applicants. A big department looking to hire 2 fire/medics got a dozen applicants. My new department got only 20 applicants for 3 open fire/medic positions.

You also helped me squeeze the extra points I needed to be in the top 3 on the oral board. While I had the basics of good answers down already, your suggestions to repeat them out loud until they become fluent and natural made all the difference. I wasn't stumbling, I knew what points I wanted to make and I made them.

Ironically some of my best answers ended up on the cutting room floor, because they never asked me the questions. But, thanks to you, I was ready if they had been asked.

They did ask me one oddball question that I wasn't prepared for, but I still didn't stumble because I stayed calm and wasn't trying to be someone else during the rest of the interview. I was being myself, and they saw that when it was time for me to answer a question that wasn't in your list of common questions.

They asked "how good are you with tools?" Humor works for me, so I told them I was great with an axe and a halligan, but they didn't want me fixing the engine with them if it broke down. It disarmed the panel and bought me a second to come up with a better answer. After the chuckling was done, I told them I was competent and comfortable with all the basic hand tools used on the job, including saws, jaws, pry bars, and even the occasional sledge hammer. Sometimes you have to do a little two-step before you can really dance and in this case, it paid off.

Capt. Bob, you say "Nothing counts till you get the badge." Thanks to your help, everything counts for me starting November 1, 2004.

Brian M. Trotta