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This is a post for you to voice your concerns and ideas on what the “perfect” company officer is or should be. Always a hot topic, I believe that the company officer drives the department. Sure, the upper brass can make things difficult or better, but the company officer is with his crew every shift, out on the streets really making a difference, or not.


In today’s fire service we are a jack of all trades. Firefighter, rescue technician, fire prevention advocate, plumber, electrician, odor sniffer and so on. But, some of the most important aspects of that position are forgotten or just not cared about.

Our company officers have the ability to greatly influence the direction of the firefighters and the organization. If you have an officer that is positive, trains frequently and is engaged in the job, his people will likely follow suit.

However, if your officer dislikes training, PR, and getting out of the recliner, his people will likely follow suit. They have a great deal of influence. I have personally seen the trainsition a firefighter made going from a positive officer and crew to a captain that just doesn’t give s***.

What are the attributes of your ideal company officer?

Tell us about some great experiences and not so great experiences?

What words of wisdom have been passed on to you that have really “stuck” in regards to the company officer position?

In my mind it boils down to this; if an officer is not willing to or does not continaually improve himself as an individual and leader and firefighter, he will never be able to improve his crew. He just wont have the respect and credibility to facilitate that improvement. If it isn’t important to him, it wont be important to the crew.

Train hard and lead effectively.

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Jason, Outstanding post, The ideal officer is one who is willing to do what it takes to do the job, Admit their shortfalls and learn from them , Willing to learn and teach what they have learned. I been a officer most of my 24 yrs. in the Volunteer service , Never thought i would the Chief, didn't want to be. the worst experince was seeing a 3yr old in vehicle accident sent thru the window, The best was being to make sure everyone got home after fire calls. Being able to show that i still could handle doing the job during training.

" A officer is one who Leads by example, sets the bar.''

-The easy answer is, "One who leads by example", but that response is a cop out. The truth is that a real leader is always a teacher. And a good teacher understands that once he has attained the title he is ultimately teaching and training his own replacement. The continuation and propagation of the knowledge gained over the lifetime of a career.
-There are good leaders and bad leaders and both can teach just as much; look for the lesson even if the lesson is what not to do.
-Great leaders understand that their position ultimately exists to care for the firefighters in their charge so the job can be done in a safe yet highly efficient manner.
-Great leaders treat their firefighters like athletes; keeping the men healthy, feed, trained and equipped properly ready to respond and do the job not just meeting the bare minimum or even competently but with excellence and sometimes even with some style. The rank doesn't exist to make the rank holders life easier. Remember the upside down service pyramid? Yet all to often manny leaders do forget it and assume that they're at the top of the pyramid.
-There is nothing worse than a fire chief who thinks he is at the top of the organization or that his job is most important. The Chief I respect most is one who was fond of saying that the most important man in the entire department was the firefighter riding the apparatus. That is where all of the ideas and high ideals translate to reality and become the tangible aspect of the fire department; where the rubber meets the road.
-The real chief understands that a chief missing a day of work may go unnoticed but a firefighter not on the rig or a company missing a single bell will certainly not go unnoticed. The real chief's first concern is always for his firefighters before anything else.
-A true chief understands that when it comes to service delivery, the reason for the existence of the department, he is the least important. True courage and confidence allows a great leader to minimize his own importance in the scheme of things and always shows the light upon his officers and firefighters.
-A great chief understands that he is the chief custodian and caretaker of the entire department, all of its people; traditions... everything. His job is to insure the continued existence of the organization so it will be there tomorrow, in tact ready to provide the most vital services essential to the very existence of the community the fire department serves.
-There was a DC here (thank God he retired) who actually said that all the excess and waste in the department was in the operations area; the field and all the financial cuts should come from the field. His intent was to ration equipment and nickel and dime the department into a cost savings machine.
-From service delivery? Really? Not admn. which was very top heavy, take home cars, expense accounts, secretaries who had secretaries, etc? This is exactly where the phrase lead by example should have come into play but did not since the understanding of the pyramid was lost on this "leader" and I use the term very loosely.
-Thankfully, the order from the new chief is that field services comes first and that safe and efficient service delivery will not be impacted for any reason and that any trimming will begin at the top first. This is a leadership quality.
-Finally, a great leader understands that respect cannot be demanded or mandated nor is respect given to titles. Real respect is always earned and it is always the man not the title of chief that earns that respect. To many poor leaders are heard to say, "I don't care if they like me but they will respect my rank". That is a b******* line used by a weak leader. Earn the respect the old fashion way... with courage, knowledge, excellence in the job and integrity.
-And its not just physical courage. Some of the most courageous things have been moral stands. Leadership requires courage, the least of which is physical courage.
-A great leader never tells you he's in charge; you just know it.
Outstanding post. What makes the perfect firefighter?
Brick, I like the last line of your post Brother. There is no reason for me to tell people I'm the Capt. My guys know me and my expectations and they will be held accountable to their jobs. If I need to tell you I'm the boss, then you are not doing your job and have shown that a problem exists. The boss also has to keep himself up to date on things that go on in the fire service and be 100% committed 24/7/365.
I completely agree. well said!
I hope that my officers will be right there with me in thick of it, train like I train, and learn as I learn. These things may seem like nothing for an officer but they mean everything to me. You can get a gold badge or a new number of bugles but to be respected means that you have to show it.

I am a big fan of the quote from Lt. Col. Hal Moore "when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together". Nothing makes me respect someone more than to literally see them be the first one through the door with their crew and the last one back out. This is another thing that seems so simple but means so much.

Everyone has their style but in a nutshell, I look to my officers to teach, listen, and help us be the best firefighters we can possibly be. As Sun Tzu said in "The Art of War" "Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death".

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