According to Albert Schweitzer, “example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing”. Leaders must lead by example. It is very simple, but it is easier for some leaders to say it than do it. A leader is defined as “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country”. So does that mean that a leader wears a different color gear or helmet; wears gold instead of a silver badge; or have multiple bugles on their badge, collar, and helmet?
Leaders are individuals who will lead their troop from the front line. They know what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. They adhere to the ethical reason and do what is right, even if it is not the favorable decision at the particular time. They can push the un-driven, train the unmotivated, and persuade the most stubborn of firefighters. They are not afraid to train other people, even though it may show their weakness. Leaders have passion for the job. It shows in everything they do. They wear their uniform with pride when they come to work in the morning, and stand resilient after grueling hours of work. They are dedicated and are proud when they clean their helmets after battling a fire. They do not need other people’s approval because they do not have to prove anything. They do their job because that is what they were destined to do.
So, who are these leaders and where are they? They are all around us. He is working quietly while guiding younger firefighters. He may be filling up somebody’s cup of coffee so that he can make a fresh pot, because he knows that other firefighters were up first that shift on the ambulance. He is the first person out of bed the morning so that he can start the morning chores early. He is the guy pulling out a hose load in the bay to fix what looks like spaghetti in the tray. My point is they are all around us. They are doing things that needed to be done. He does not point fingers. Instead, he works hard. He knows that the best motivated firefighters will follow him because good character and moral integrity are inherent in the best firefighters.
What makes them such good leaders? They work hard, lead the men by example to guide, mentor, and promote integrity, honesty, and commitment. They keep the pride alive in the rest of us. They ease the pain after bad calls. They provide calmness and good working relations in difficult situations. A leader could be the rookie who grabs a broom and a mop a little earlier than normal to get the job done, motivating an elder to assist them in completing the tasks that have to be done.
These are just examples. Leaders are not bosses; they work with their followers. You should also know that you lead others, whether you know it or not. You have an obligation to uphold the integrity, the character, and the pride to be a well- trained and motivated firefighter. Remember, training breeds the confidence that is required to successfully accomplish the objective promptly and efficiently. Second guessing yourself makes you slow down, and deprives you of the confidence that makes you motivated. As a leader, you must have the ability to lead a team and drive them to success.
All this seem a little harsh to you? Good. The “Participation Trophy” mentality is not welcome in the firehouse and titty babies can hit the bricks. You will not be missed by those brave few who fight on. I don’t care about your feelings, I care about your life, my brothers who ride the truck with you, and the citizens you are sworn to protect. If you can’t do your job you are useless to me. I’m not telling you that at 60 you have to have a sub 2:00 Firefighter Combat Challenge time. That’s stupid. I am telling you that despite your achy shoulders and old football injuries you have a physical potential that you are obligated to maintain. It’s a sliding scale that declines over time but if you still jump on the truck and other lives depend on you then you better learn to suck it up and do the right thing.
Michael Siefker was first introduced to me about 10 years ago as one of the instructors in my fire & ARFF academy. In April, 2015 he will become a retiree of the Amarillo Fire Department in the panhandle of Texas.
What made you want to become a Firefighter?
Since being a little kid, I have always aspired to do something that would help or assist others. I thought about being a Pediatrician, but 8 years of college didn’t sound too appealing to me. In High School my thoughts changed towards being Fire Fighter. I even subscribed to FireHouse Magazine. The entrance examinations in El Paso and Amarillo, Texas were very competitive, so I ventured towards some other career paths. I was going to college and working on a degree in Accounting. In 1991, my dream came true and I became a firefighter with Amarillo Fire Department.
How many years did you spend as a Firefighter before attempting to promote and when did you promote?
I didn’t promote as fast, or as soon as others in the Fire Department. I was a hoseman for 12 years before I promoted to Driver/Operator. I truly enjoyed being a hoseman and had a blast working that position. I find that position is where most of your experience will come from. Hoseman are the ones doing most of the grunt work and are exposed to almost every situation imaginable. In my observations on the other personnel, I had seen quite a few “2 Year Wonders”, and I swore I’d never be one of them. A “2 Year Wonder’ is a firefighter that is usually very book smart and will take a promotional test the first chance they can. On Amarillo Fire Department, you are eligible for a promotion after 2 years in a given position. In my opinion, these firefighters do not always make the best Officers. A small number do, but most do not. I contribute that to the lack of experience. I also think that most of those that are “book smart” tend to rely less on common sense and want everything written down in SOGs, SOPs or in the Rules and Regulations. They are usually a “Black and White” person. Most of these people place too much importance on book knowledge. (Don’t get me wrong, I think book knowledge is important) In times of emergencies they may fail to recall what they read for a particular situation. I think common sense and rational thinking are 2 of the best attributes to being an effective Fire Leader/Officer. Another thing about these”2 Year Wonders” is they spent most of their time at the station off away from the crew studying for the next test. That leads to very little interaction with the other firefighters. They were a type of social isolationist. I felt interacting with other firefighters was important. I would rather learn by listening to others’ stories or by others’ mistakes. The social interactions among firefighters, makes the bonds stronger too.
Is there anything you would like to pass on to the younger generation?
Be prepared for the work of a firefighter. Mentally, fitness-wise, training, knowledge, and be prepared physically for each shift, but most importantly have fun with the people you work with, enjoy what you do and you won’t have to work a day in your life. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a firefighter and hope you will too.
What is/are a couple of things you learned from your most valued mentor?
Honesty and integrity. I find these traits to be rarer than in the past, and that’s a shame. My firefighters need to know they can trust me, by my actions and words. I need to know that I can trust my rookie or hosemen or chiefs. If I assign someone to search and rescue or ventilation, it’s imperative that they are honest when I ask them about the completion of the tasks. If you’re dishonest at the fire station you’ll probably be dishonest at the fireground. Honesty and integrity are extremely valued by me. I need to trust the guys/gals I work with, and they need to know they can trust me too.
What is your best/favorite firefighting memory.
This really isn’t a “good” memory, but it was pivotal in my thoughts of firefighting and my beliefs. I was on Engine 61 and we were working a grass fire in a rural/urban interface area. It was extremely windy and hot. We had been assigned to keep the grass from jumping across a road. This was the first time I had ever seen a grassfire jump and move over 150’ in a matter of seconds. The heat was intense. I had the hoseline and was fixing to move to the backside of the Engine. I thought a fire truck between me and the fire was good protection. Lt. Neely (at the time) thought it was more important to protect the truck so we made a stand in front of the truck and kept it from burning. I figured that if Lt. Neely was willing to risk his life for a truck, I would too. I also learned to trust in other firefighter’s experience. I was still new at the time, but I trusted Lt. Neely’s decision and the outcome was good. The fire crossed the road, but our truck was okay and we survived. Trust who you work with and trust their experience. Sometimes in life the risks are worth it. Be willing to take the risks (but always have an exit strategy just in case).
Any advice to guys looking to make it to retirement?
One of the things I think was the hardest for me working on the fire department was the bureaucracy. In my opinion, it seems like lately it just keeps growing and growing. Keep the bureaucracy as separated from the station life as much as you can. When I started our fire department’s Rules and Regulations, SOPs, and Training Manual was 75 pages and most of that was how to tie knots and ladder raises. Now we have a bunch of manuals for Rules and Regulations, SOPs, SOGs and Training Manual and it grows on a daily basis. You have to deal with the bureaucracy, but limit your exposures and try to keep it separated from the station life.
What is one of your most memorable station life stories?
We used to have a driver that loved playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on the computer until the early morning hours. When he came to bed he would walk so quietly through the bedroom and use his wristwatch as a light to find his way. Bedrooms back then had to be dark and cold. One day I thought it would be funny to put a can/air horn under his bed. I even stacked magazines under it until it hit the wood cross member on mattress’ foundation. Any weight applied to the top mattress traveled down and hit the button on the air horn. It worked perfectly. That night I couldn’t sleep, and finally got to see him make his way in the bedroom. He sat on his mattress and it went off. I couldn’t keep quiet, I had to laugh. The best part is he sat on the bed again and it sounded for the second time. It was then he realized it was under the bed and he grabbed the can and threw it at my corner.
Any final comments or questions?
If you have chosen firefighting as a career and you plan to retire from it someday, have a plan. My goal was to be debt free or close to it when that day came. I worked hard to accomplish that. I had originally wanted to work until I was 55, but an opportunity came up that was a dream for my family and I took it. Luckily, I was in a good situation and able to do that. Be prepared and ready even before that day gets here. If you retire debt free, you’ll be surprised at what you can afford.
What can I say, Erik Falkenstrom with 911 leather has been an over achiever since I inquired about reviewing a product from 911leather.com. Mr. Falkenstrom says several times that, “this should last a man’s career”, meaning of course the products he offers that do not see firefighting conditions.
The first product sent was a axe belt. Custom made, black leather with white stitching, my last name stamped on the rear and “Station Pride” etched into the axe loop. The leather straight from the box appeared tough, thick but still flexible. The loop for the axe handle is big enough for any axe handle but not so big that it sits “sloppy”. The belt was built with my size in mind but given extra holes to accommodate for gear and years of weight gain or loss. While I’ve only used it a few times (due to call volume) it has held up very well and will continue to do so for years.
The next product I received was a custom made shave/toiletries bag completely made of leather. The handle was a cutout of a fire axe and heavily stitched to the bag. The zipper is strong and stiff but I’m sure will loosen over time after use. The front is adorned with a leather Maltese cross with my name and dept etched into it. The rear has another pocket that I keep my razors in, again strong but somewhat stiff zipper. As said before Erik says, “this should last a career”. The
http://911leather.com offers many products including but not limited to, axe belts, leather suspenders, shave bags and they are all custom to your order.
To contact 911 leather email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Volunteer Solution Part 1 we covered a fair amount of ground. If you were able to get through the article you would have found some extremely valuable information in solving the volunteer problem. The remaining Station-Pride user submitted issues of concern in this series include:
- Spare time to volunteer
- Gasoline expenses
- Lack of fire department funding for necessities
- Lack of manpower/members
- Training overload or willing to volunteer but no time for the required FF1 or 2 and other classes such as Hazmat, CPR, and extrication.
Time is an incredible issue facing volunteer firefighters. In life, time is the most precious gift we have to give, solely because we can never get it back. Once you give it up, it’s gone forever. Every volunteer Fire Chief and volunteer Fire Officer should be keen to the fact that their firefighters are giving the most valuable gift they possess.
Time can be a frustrating burden and it can be broken down two ways. There is the time you wish you could give and the time you can actually give. The time you wish you could give is at constant battle with the time you can actually give.
It’s imperative for you to think rationally with your time. Remove the entire wish and want you have for giving more time at the firehouse. You probably need to work in order to support you and/or your family. Work has to be the priority in your pecking order, second only to your family. That means the highest realistic priority for volunteering should be third in line. Family first, job second, volunteering third.
I know this sounds like one of those ridiculous cheesy back-flip lines but, you can only give what you can give. Your pride and dedication are going to push you to the breaking point on time. Fires have been burning for thousands of years and nearly all of them were extinguished somehow without you there. Try to maintain a bigger picture and not get caught up in making the fire dept. your number 1 priority.
A motivated and creative fire chief who read The Volunteer Solution Part 1 should be able to come up with a plan to help ease the financial burden of gas. Gas is expensive and it’ll never be under $2 a gallon ever again.
Some departments have set up gas incentive programs where each member is given a stipend based on the number of calls they ran that month. Likewise, I’m aware of another department that had a positive working relationship with the local gas station who would give 15% off gas bills for volunteers who showed their badge. It may not seem like much but 15% on a $40 gas bill is about 2 free gallons of gas.
In the end it’s really a community effort. Most of these funds will come from fundraising or should become a line item in the annual budget. Again, the first rule of running a successful volunteer fire department is to take care of your people first. You can have all the trucks and awesome tools in the world but you can’t have a fire department without people.
Lack of Funding for Necessities
As described in Part 1, Funding is an area that will require the most creativity and attention. As stated previously, fundraising should be left up to another entity such as an auxiliary. A motivated fire chief should be able to harness the power of the community to raise funds for the fire department. These aren’t just words on paper, this is very possible no matter where you live.
One creative way to get the things you need is to just ASK for them! Instead of asking for monetary donations; set up a system where citizens can purchase equipment directly. Publish a list of items you need. This outcome is sometimes better because the donor can actually take part in what their money is used for. It’s almost like creating a wedding registry. Team Rubicon USA and other non-profits have had great success with direct equipment donations. http://www.teamrubiconusa.org/join-the-team/the-giver/tr-wishlist/
Marketing your problem and gaining sympathy is paramount. Here again, Team Rubicon has perfected this with short videos that address the problem in a way that makes you want to throw your cash at them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvYLUjf2v6M I’m not intending to plug Team Rubicon here but they do have an impressive marketing strategy for garnering donations and support.
My point here is that your department has a story. It’s probably one of struggle, hardship, and triumph. You need to tell that story. Show people working hard for their community, giving their time, show effort, find a way to show what it would be like if there were no volunteers or no fire department at all. Someone in your department is likely good with video editing and if not, try the local high school AV club. I bet you’d be able to find a willing participant to help you out for some extra credit. Tugging heartstrings and telling a story that astonishes people is one of the best ways to get people to care. It’s likely that most people don’t fully understand your struggle. Show them.
Lack of Manpower/Members
Here again, the atmosphere in the firehouse has to conducive to something people WANT to be around. The more open and inviting your fire department is, the more people will be showing up to volunteer.
I knew a chief once who locked everyone out of the fire station and gave a key to 10 people out 0f 60. During emergencies, groups of people would stand around outside the fire station waiting for someone with a key. One time, I recall someone making entry through a window to get a truck out the door. The Chief didn’t trust his volunteers and the volunteers didn’t trust their chief. If you don’t give trust, you won’t receive it.
Also, there are people in the community that don’t realize they CAN be a volunteer firefighter at all. I’ve witnessed numerous retirees join a volunteer fire department wishing they had known previously that it was possible for them. There has always been an unspoken barrier between the public and the guys on the fire truck. Break that barrier.
Volunteer fire departments are a community effort.
The dire reality is that almost every volunteer fire agency is reaching out more often, and a farther distance for mutual aid just to fulfill routine calls, than they probably did a decade or two ago. The need for manpower is a serious issue facing volunteers and the only way to resolve it is it to quell the in-house politics and enforce a code of conduct within the firehouse.
The Station Pride submitted concern of “Lack of manpower,” I assume relates to responding to incidents. It’s a common reality among all volunteer fire departments. “Who is going to show up at 10am on a Tuesday.” It’s probably a Fire Chief’s worst nightmare.
I’ve been “that guy” that’s shown up at 10am on a Tuesday. Called for the closest 5 departments, wrapped the hydrant and laid my own line in, crossing my fingers someone would connect it; geared up, pulled the line, set the pump, forced the door and started making an attack all before anyone else arrived. Its reality, but again… you can only do what you can do.
The only way to overcome the manpower issue is to increase the number of volunteers you have on your roster. This can be accomplished with aforementioned recruiting campaigns and literally accepting everyone that’s willing to walk through the door. Not everyone needs to be a line firefighter. The more people you have on your roster the greater the chances that someone will show up. Work with the local government to pass legislation that protects volunteer firefighters from losing their jobs in the event of a community emergency, structure fire and/or an incident of significance.
Long gone are the days when shop owners close their doors and rush off to a fire. But that doesn’t mean a level of understanding can’t occur and if the situation warrants it, a hand shake from the fire chief can make all the difference on whether that employee is able to bail out for an emergency.
I say it all the time, I’ve always believed it’s better to have old apparatus, old equipment and a full roster than a new truck and no people.
Training is necessary in order for every firefighter to be competent, effective and safe. There is no way of getting around it. The NIOSH reports, although they don’t necessarily place blame, they do highlight “contributing factors” to LODD’s and every bit of that firefighter’s life is under a microscope.
While the solution to this problem isn’t an easy one, getting the conversation started now for change to happen in the future can be. There is a company that currently exists called TrainingDivision.com they provide web-based certification classes. The classes are completed 75-90% online followed by a one-two week crash practical skills academy.
I bring this up not as an option (although it is), but as an idea. Create a relationship with your State’s fire academy and lobby for a web-based firefighter certification system. The Air Force uses Career Development Courses where Service members can accomplish academic work for their fire certification classes online. The system the military uses isn’t perfect, as it can allow pencil whipping during practical evaluations, but its useful and effective at providing the training necessary at the students pace.
My vision for the future of volunteer firefighter training is that we create a web-based fire certification solution. A web-based certification program brings the fire service classroom into the volunteer’s home. It also provides a solid platform for the state or local government to disseminated consistent information to all firefighters in training within their borders. Following completion of the academic portion of the class, firefighters could then attend practical training sessions and evaluations that accompany the academic training. I firmly believe this is the best hope for the volunteer fire service with regard to training.
As far as the National Incident Management System (NIMS) classes and FEMA classes are concerned; unfortunately, as they are typically attached to grant opportunities, the classes are a necessary evil. These classes also push a national agenda, which usually waves a flag of interoperability, common communication and emergency preparedness. They aren’t a bad thing,but in order for it to work, everyone has to be on board.
There is no one easy answer that fixes the volunteer problem. However, there are many creative and open-minded steps that can be taken in order to improve your fire department’s situation. The Volunteer Fire Chief absolutely has to be a positive force and a politician of sorts in order to garner the support of the entire community. I hate to say it rests on the Fire Chief shoulders but he/she sets the pace for everyone to follow. If the Fire Chief is bitter and vindictive everyone below him will follow suit.
Good Luck, show mutual respect for each other, and be safe.
The Volunteer Solution Part 3 will cover Expectations.
Mediocrity is a dangerous blight on the fire service. In volunteer and full-time departments alike, we accept mediocrity in our equipment, personnel and even in ourselves. Unfortunately, as a result, our brothers and sisters, families and community all suffer.
Low manpower is a large problem in a lot of rural volunteer departments. In some cases, they take what they can get, but is this always what’s best? In my opinion, a lack of firefighters is far better than a bad or dangerous one. Firefighters who don’t hold themselves to a standard, don’t train, or don’t think they should are far deadlier than the fires we are fighting.
The majority of our line of duty deaths in the fire service are result of this mediocrity at times. Our health not being a priority results in heart attack LODD’s. Not wearing our PPE as it was designed results in failures and deaths or injuries. Not wearing our seat belts on every call at all times can take a life on that one time it isn’t worn. Even a cultural attitude in your department can be detrimental. Having a “just deal with it/get over it” attitude can breed depression and other mental issues that can ultimately take over and even end a person’s life.
Holding ourselves and our brothers and sisters in the fire service accountable to the standards we should be at is key to ending the mediocrity.
Even at a low level in the department, you can create change by leading by example. It will take time, and it won’t be easy but it can be done. I myself am, by far, not the perfect firefighter, but as of today, I vow to better myself mentally and physically and hold myself to a standard that I should be at. I have a long ways to go, but it needs to be done. I will no longer accept myself in my current state as I am not in the best shape to help my community and support my brothers and sisters. Will you do the same?
Firestrong is an independently operated online resource for members of the Fire Service and their families. The mission of Firestrong is to offer mental, emotional, and physical support to each member of the fire department and their families by providing educational tools, resources, crisis intervention assistance (crisis line) and peer support services.
- 24/7/365 Independent Fire Crisis Network Line: 602.845.FIRE (3473)
- Mental health information and assessments
- Peer support and testimonials with confidentiality
- Live online chat with professionals
- Counseling & what to expect FAQs
- Free counseling services contact our Experts tab on the Landing page
- Online self help tool through a partnership with Mindability
- Education regarding current medical insurance mental health benefits
- Resources for financial fitness
- Legal backup options
- Crisis Intervention steps
- Member and family services
- Free mental wellness assessments
Firestrong overall goals:
Firestrong.org is designed to be a point of reference for fire service members and their families. Most of this site is available to anybody and is not restricted in anyway. However, departments can use this site as a starting point for their members and have their departments personalized resources placed on this site for additional support. Interested departments should contact us for more information.
Firestrong can also offer a tailor log-in for your department:
- Secured log-in for your members to gain access to a variety of your tools including testimonials
- Placement of your departments logo within the site
- Marketing tools
- Ongoing informational updates and upkeep of websites resources and social network
- Access to Mindability, an online self-help, self-paced program designed to build resilience in your members
Future goals include:
- Ongoing Research for Retiree education
- Ongoing resiliency training
– A noun
– Defined as a belief or set of beliefs that is accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.
“That’s the way we’ve always done it”
These are words we have all heard before. Whether it be true or not, right or wrong, old-school or new-school, is this the way the fire service deserves to be taught? Does anybody question the ideas or ways many tasks are derived? How do we know what is right, if it’s all we have ever known to live by? The answer is to think outside the box.
What are some topics or training exercises your organization has never touched on? Do we really know what is out there, if we don’t train on bettering ourselves for the worst possible outcomes? These are questions that will remain unanswered until the dogma is over. By reaching outside the box, we can better ourselves in more ways than one. One example of a dogma that I can think of is the way we sometimes unrealistically train. Whether it be financially unsound, or non-practical because “in all my years, we have never run that type of call before.” We are jacks of all trades, and hopefully masters in some. I have used that as fuel for my own passion for the fire service, as it has grown over the last 12 years of my life into what it is today.
Training deserves the right to be conducted in a professional, realistic manner that everybody can learn from. We deserve to be trained to the highest possible standards. Most importantly, our patients and victims deserve that we are trained in that same fashion. Is extrication training realistic if it is on a 5 year old car, which has been destroyed by water damage and has maybe one or two dents or dings? Is that really helping our foundations of vehicle extrication? Are our rookies getting the absolute most out of their scenario that day? In my eyes, they are not. They need to be popping doors off a car that have rolled several times, landed on its roof, and that have manikins that are entangled in metal, thrashed throughout the vehicle. Although gruesome to the lay person, this is what we need to prepare for. Good instructors/training officers remove the dogma, and broaden the horizons on what a training evolution should be comprised of, making the drill educational, yet keeping it within the boundaries so everyone can stay focused.
For those of us who provide patient care, we should strive to be the best. We need to make the best possible decisions in the worst possible times. We need to be able to count on our training as a back-up to what we’re thinking and doing. We should want to be “that guy” who is upside-down in a vehicle, intubating our “Trauma Alert” patient, and being able to stabilize their airway so extrication could ensue, all while staying within the “Golden Hour”. After all, we are here for the patient, right? We need to know that by training as realistic as possible, we can achieve goals that we would have never come close to if the dogma was left in place. We need to question those that make rules/SOPs/SOGs. By no means am I telling you to go to the firehouse tomorrow and run to the Chief’s office and demand he give you answers. What I am saying is that no decisions are made because “we HAVE to do it that way”, or “that’s the way we have always done it”. Knowing “why” that decision is made, is just as important as actually making the decision itself. Knowing what thoughts and tactics are running in his mind when the senior firefighter knows to get off the roof. Or why the company officer is deciding not to use stairway A for ventilation, because there are screaming victims running out the first floor door. Why do these people know what they’re doing? Because they trained for it. They trained for this day to come, and now they know why they are making these decisions. This type of training not only covers the “How’s”, but also the “Why’s”. Would your probie know they need to look under the smoke after rolling into a window from an aerial? If you don’t train in a smoke-filled atmosphere, we could only guess what the answer would be. (No, really. Guess…) I have heard some very off-the-wall answers when they don’t know what they’re talking about. I would bet the next time they are in that same situation they will know exactly what to do and, most importantly, “Why”?
All in all, this is not at all an advocation to bust down your administrator’s doors, and bash them. It’s just a way to open the eyes of the Jake in all of us, and help to think about removing ourselves from the dogma that we have always heard. Once it is no longer existent, we can train in a way that our profession is fundamentally comprised. We need to be trained for the unknown. What CAN be thrown at us, WILL be thrown at us in some point in our careers. It’s our job to be ready for it.
– The “Irons”
What is pride? Where does it come from? Where is it found? Every so often, I have a self-realization moment when I ask myself, “What can I do to better myself, and my department?” It’s hard to find answers sometimes, but I usually find that pride is where it all starts. But where do you find it? Where is it hiding? Figuratively speaking, where does it “grow”?
It starts with the basics. From the bottom, to the top. Pride can be found in the nooks and crannies of our firehouses. It can be found in many forms and states of matter. One of the best places to find it, is in the kitchen. Just by listening to the words flying across the kitchen table, you could find a sense of pride, or a lack there of. Whether good words or bad, they can either motivate you, or light the fire under you, causing to you grab the bull by the horns and find it for yourself.
Some things in the firehouse are necessary for everyday functionality. Station chores are also a great way to start your search. Early in my career, I learned very quickly that you could only polish a turd so many times. It’s still a turd. But if you put a little elbow grease in and go the extra mile, you will find self-satisfaction, integrity, and maybe even a ‘‘dat a boy’ from a veteran Jake.
Have you ever seen the ring of green algae underneath the toilet brim? Although gross, that is the type of place you will find pride. Removing that ring not only cleans the joint up, but also instills values, diligence, integrity, and PRIDE. It shows that you care. It shows that you are there, and want to be a part of the team. It also shows that you want to change things and make them better, even if it’s not just for yourself. Most importantly, you are there to learn. In exchange, the small stuff needs to be tended to. Cleaning toilets, sprinting to answer phones, and cooking the platoon’s dinner are all a part of the firehouse life. It shouldn’t be hard to find things around the house to do, as there are many little tidbits like this that exist.
Now that the station chores are tended to, let’s make our way out to the engine room. Ever hear a story about the chief that once had given a “White Glove Test”? Everyone has one. Try it one time. One swipe is all it took to find a trail of dirt. The idea behind it wasn’t to just give the rookie a BS job for 12 hours. It was to see what kind of integrity he has, and to see how long he will voluntarily do it for. No one would come out and stop him. Nobody would tell him when enough is enough. Anybody could wipe dirt out of the wheel wells. It takes dedication to wipe off the accumulation of road grime, grease, and funk that is found all over God’s creation as we drive miles and miles a day. Although tirelessly working for months, little by little, the dirt always seems to find itself on the truck. We all know the “White Glove Test” is for parade trucks. Anybody on a working fire truck knows there will never be an end in sight. But do you know what doesn’t find itself in the usual places? Accumulation. Pride took care of that.
– The “Irons”