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Hello All,
I have a problem...I am the training officer in a rural town. We just had election and we have a new chief. After talking to him the other morning I have come to see that he may not go along with my training plans. And as we all know as the chief goes so does most of the department. We used to be one of the most respected department in our area, now I am not so sure. I am trying to get our dept. up to Indiana cert level, but most of the older guys don't care. These are the same older guys who don't care for me much either. I guess what I am asking is if anyone has come across this problem or can tell me a way to work towards a solution I would greatly appreciate it. I have two years under this chief and I want to make it as good as last year was. Thanks guys

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Your in a tuff spot. I think I'd start by getting the Chief to "buy in" to your training plan, by whatever means. Ask for his support in the interest of safety for the firefighters. Reinforce the team concept to him and push your objective is to prepare these people so they don't get hurt. You need his support to make this happen. You could also tell him in such a way that if one of these guys is hurt or killed it falls back on the Chief as being the leader of the department If he can sleep at night knowing that, then I guess your in for a long two years. Lay out how you plan to get them there and use them to identify the training needs. If you can't sell it, they won't buy it. Certifications are a double edge sword. It's a piece of paper saying you passed a test and did a few skills maybe during your training period. It's a hard sell when they don't want to do it. Bottom line to get "buy in" sell the life safety and basic skills" stuff. They'll see the need for it over a piece of paper with academic merit. They may accept you more for this too.
Finally dealing with the older crowd. Use them to train and teach a few times. Evaluate their current status. Sometimes during the course of training, they realize that maybe they weren't or aren't as good as they used to be and will motovate the others to learn, when they screw up in front of the crowd. This turns into self reflection amoungts members, which helps you prove your point of good training and the new there of for all. If that helps.
One of the little things that seems to get my members more interested in a training class, is to host the class at our station. It seems to make them feel more obligated to take the class if it as at thier department, we also try to include them in the scheduling so they don't have any excuses.
Also if you have older members that don't care to train, or care for you it can be difficult, however you may want to approach one of these older members and ask them help you setup a training class or even ask them to teach a particular subject. ( after all they got to be older by doing something right).
All training officers have much of these same issues. You are not alone. Include the chief and many of the senior firefighters in the planning of training exercises and you might have more success.

Training is a funny thing. People need it and want it. There is always people that know more than you do or think they do. They want to train but only the way that they want to. This is just something that you will have to overcome. You just need to win them over as much as you can and leave your dept a little better than when you started. You cant do the impossible. Just do what you can do with the time and resources that you have.
Hey Brother:

Small rural dept? I'm in Alaska. I know your pain. I'm not the training officer. We don't have one. But I am one of the officers that pushes hard to make the training come about right, efficiently and worth doing. Our shift is responsible for training which makes us quazzi training officers, but the authority for veto lies with the fire chief. Chief isn't always see'in our point of view. Specially if the budget is a part of it.
However, change takes time. Damage to your system "last year was great" is hard to bring to a halt once it gets rolling. Training always suffers first, then its the tools and equipment, then manpower.

Brother. Hold your ground. Do it with tact and be open to others viewpoints, choose what is really important and be ready to justify it. We aggressive types tend to put the politically minded into defense mode. I often tell the recruits that I'm the terrier the Chief keeps locked up for emergencies.
View your battles as a matter of credability. You only have so much change in your pocket. If you spend it all on little things that piss you off, you won't have anything in your pocket left to fight the important battles with. Give a little on your plans and take big on the things that are critical to you. Keep the troops in sight, put their welfare first, probably already know all this.
Most importantly, remember the troops are waiting to see what you will do. Do the right thing. When your peers start linin' up to flatter the new boss, the boys that pull the hose will wonder who's watching out for them.

Your not alone. This is why we have to fight to keep our people off the Secret List. I guess that's exactly how I view it. If everyone tells me someday "see, here you are retiring and no one died like you feared", I'll be a happy man. I don't ever want to be the "I told you so" guy. Fight on Brother. DTRT
Communication with your chief is paramount to the success of your program. Keeping him included in the planning and implementation of your program will help smooth the wrinkles. Surely there is a subject where he could be the lead instructor for the training activity. He most likely feels you are a threat to his authority or position. He fears that you may know more than he and therefore is putting up his defenses. Keep him involved, keep him informed, communicate with him--it will only make you a better officer as well. Good Luck and don't give up--
Ben and John,
Thanks Guys. I am going to keep doing what I do, I know that it will work in the long run. Hell I made changes in 1 year like bring 6 new Instructors to our department. Now I just have to continue to make small steps and I believe that things will turn around. I appreciate the comments that you are giving me, that just reaffirms my desire to continue on this track. Again thanks guys.

Hey Tom,

You more than the Chief is the most important person in your department. You are the person that will bring your team to the forefront of education. You have already started by bringing other members to the level of instructors. Variety is the spice of life ,no different here. Put toghther a power point presention using clips from FFCC that state the repercussions from failing to train and how it effects everyone not just the Chief. Everyone loses when there is an injury or death on the job and you as the training officer will fall just as hard as the chief and all must know this. Do your homework when putting the lesson plan together, have answers for the questions asked and if you dont, get it and make sure you get it to the person that asked. As more learn give them small tasks to give them a sence of being, they will communicate this to others and inturn more will come. As for the older members they will come on their own. Just through sheer curiosity they will come, it's human nature ! An interesting beginning, middle and end will keep their attention with a good hands on is the key to training. And in the end, "everyone" gets a "good job guys" . Remember ,you are only limited to your imagination !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
Thanks Dennis,
I like your idea of putting together a power point. That is something that I may end up putting together soon.

Thanks Again,
Stay Safe out there Brother.
I do not agree that the dept goes how the chief goes.. Or should I say it does not have to be that way. Sure higher level decisions and policy ect lies there but......Concentrating on the "older" members you speak of is the path of most resistance sometimes. Simply said you have to spark the interest of the younger members that are hungry for leadership and training. Find the hidden talents in those people, show them the fire you have for the job and make sure you give them the ability to chase the knowledge and desire to learn the job. Stop concentrating on winning over the "older guys" they have been there for a while it’s time for you to persist and take the dept training down the path you would like to see. Start slower and then gain momentum and don’t stop. When the chief shuts down a training idea scale it down some then present it again. Don’t be so quick to judge the reasoning for the no answer find what the chief needs to make it a yes.

Good luck
Any person who is an agent of change will face the challenges you are facing. It kinda goes with the territory unfortunately. I have been in that spot several times. The older personnel, who typically are resistant to change, must have the opportunity to see the value in the change you are promoting. The reason they are resistant is because, in their own perspective, the way things are has worked. Why fix it if it ain't broke is their way of looking at it. There are a few ways to approach this.

One way is to identify the unofficial leader of that group, bring them into your circle. Sell that person on your concept, be willing to let them "argue" their way to your point of view. Meaning, be willing for healthy debate over a pot of coffee in a neutral environment. As they argue, you can patiently point out the benefits of your changes. They may not even appear to come to your point of view during the initial conversations but they eventually will see how your changes will help your organization. This method will seem tedious but in the end it will actually save you headache. Once you get this person won over, the rest will less resistant. It is important that as they talk to you that you present your desire to help your personnel. You want to make your people better, you want them to be safer, more proficient.

Whatever you do, do not try to sell your concept based on what you believe are defiencies. Your people probably think they are doing an exceptional job and your criticisms will be viewed as if you think they are currently performing at a sub standard level. It is better to show your idea as "taking it to the next level". You may already be doing that, it will just take some time for it to sink in for them.

Points to bring up to older hands: "Let's try to leave the department, better then we found it." The legacy approach. "The younger firefighters don't have the opportunities to fight as much fire." This will cause them to look outside of their own situation.

Also, be willing to listen during their arguments, they may actually be right. If they are, you need to be willing to compromise. The wisdom of the older hands may reveal a very good reason as to why your department didn't go the route you are suggesting sooner. Understand their point of view, then they'll be willing to understand yours.

Rome wasn't built in a day and changing a persons mind is often times harder then building a city. Keep the faith and don't get discouraged.
Hey Mike,

Nice to hear from you. I would love to join your HR group as well as some of the others you offer. Just joined yesterday and am still trying to figure out some of the logistics of the sight. 1.5 months to go until the assessment center for my Capts. test. Probably won't be hearing too much from me until the end of June. After that I will get active in discussions. Thanks, Evan
Good luck on the test Evan. I'm sure you'll do great.

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