BEING PART OF THE SOLUTION
There is no greater thrill than knowing that you possess the skill, knowledge, and equipment to bring a positive outcome to a dire situation. As I review newspaper clippings, photographs, and supplemental reports, I realize that I played a role is helping, and in some cases, SAVING many lives. First responders are often thrust into peoples lives at the worst moments they will ever experience. Whether serving the roll of "hydrant man" assuring a quick water supply, advancing on a fire as the "pipe man", opening a roof as the "vent man", or directing operations as part of an incident management team, I always felt that the job I did at a fire scene was an important part of the overall success of the mission. I know that there are people who are alive today, and buildings that are still standing because I had the opportunity to be part of a team of dedicated public servants who possessed the willingness, skills, and guts to put the mission first.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
THE SPECIAL STUFF
Firefighting is enough to keep any group nearly overwhelmed with preparation. But as we know, the fire service responds to way more than just fires. It was these special operations that the department performed that I saw as a greater challenge. Most departments provided a special service that they could share mutually with neighboring agencies. I was fortunate enough to be involved in just about every aspect of "special services". From the Terrapin Trucking Company, FART Van (ask if you must) & Foam Unit in College Park, hazardous materials and technical rescue at Carpenter Technology, and vehicle rescue at West Lawn, and TSVFD, I always enjoyed providing the special services. Splash in there the extra work with RIT (rapid intervention team) development, firefighter rehab, collapse rescue, and some kick-ass fire prevention programs, I feel like I had a taste of it all during my career.
THOSE I HELPED GROOM
Probably the greatest feeling is molding a young mind of an aspiring new recruit. Helping them absorb the knowledge you share is the best way to keep the fire service progressive. As an instructor, explaining the what, where, why, and how to young minds was always rewarding; watching them hone those newly learned skills during practice sessions was even better. By far, the greatest feeling is watching them apply what they learned from me when it mattered most... out in the field where someone's live depended on their competence. As a chief officer, I like to believe that many of my lessons went far beyond fire service academia. After all, I was not leading machines, I was leading PEOPLE. My efforts were to help shape the PERSON, not just the firefighter. So much of what we do is about humanitarianism, integrity, trust, and maturity. My belief was: "Make great men and women FIRST, so the emergency responder part was easier"
Some had short stays in the fire service. Fire service life isn't for everyone. I like to think while they were with us, they appreciated the knowledge I helped them discover. Others have continued in the emergency services, both volunteer and career. Several of those have even risen to positions of leadership, where I hope that the things I taught them have positively affected the way they lead, and treat the people under their command.
THE FRIENDS I MADE ALONG THE WAY
Far beyond the accomplishments and professional relationships I developed during my career, are the friends I have met along the way. Brothers and sisters who truly were (and some still are) like "brothers and sisters from other mothers and misters". Many I have stood beside with pride, respect, and love during graduations, weddings, funerals, births, and promotion ceremonies; or sat quietly with during times when life was dealing a blow through family crises, illnesses, job transition, or periods of personal doubt. As I reflect back on my life, I realize that nearly every person in my life is there because of our shared interest in the emergency services. If you can trust someone with your life, and they can trust their life in your hands, it makes forming a personal bond almost automatic.
By building these relationships, I never needed to go too far to find someone skilled in a trade to help with a home project. Plumbers, electricians, roofers, movers, carpenters, mechanics... the fire service is a virtual smorgasbord of great people willing to help. All you need to do is reciprocate when they reach out for help with the skills you can bring to the table.
Sharing emergency services experiences is a great environment to cultivate friendships, and I am eternally grateful to everyone I befriended during my career. Those who remain close, even after my departure from the fire service, will be cherished friends forever.
I have been recruited to re-enter the emergency services in my new community. In fact, that is what prompted this reflection of the things I miss. "So what are you waiting for?" you may ask. Well, you may need to wait for my next installment of Hittin' the Hot Spot to hear the other side of the decision...