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Attitudes of the Spartans for the Firefighter

I recently watched the movie “300” and I find it to be inspiring and historically interesting. I have seen it maybe three or four times and this most recent viewing it made me stop and think. These Spartans were a proud, honorable and highly trained group of men and society. It was an honor to die protecting Sparta.
Sound familiar? The fire service should be a place that we are proud, honorable and in trying to save a life, we are revered for giving our lives to save another. At least that is the way it used to be. I got to thinking: “Is this still the case?”
What to do we do while we are at work? What do we do on our time off? How do we present our profession to others? How do we honor and respect our traditions and past? All of these questions were rattling around in my head.
I have heard people in our own profession mock some of these questions, not necessarily directly, but the way they act and present themselves as part of the fire service. They demean new ideas and traditions alike. They don’t like training or reading the trade journals. These people would rather become an expert in anything else but fighting fire!
We all have them in our organizations and we will never completely get rid of them. The problem is that we have officers with this attitude and it gets passed down to the new people as a way of life. We have to stop this and keep that poison away from the new folks. We have a responsibility to keep the fire alive in the fire service. How do we do this?
Our attitude everyday has to be about pride, honor and integrity! (Thanks, Chief Lasky!) We have to pass on why we do the things we do and why we don’t do other things, like the things that get us needlessly killed and injured. We are our brother’s keeper and we must take that responsibility seriously. The public is our customer and if they want a fire truck at a block party, there should be one there. When someone is denigrating the fire service or a fire service related topic, they should be stopped in their tracks. Pride, honor and integrity, it matters.
Officers have to create an environment and culture that encourages ideas and improvement of their people. Don’t isolate and bring them down. Raise the level of performance by training regularly and discussing new trends. Read the trade journals and instill this as a regular part of the day for the new people. They will think that this is how everyday is and it will live on and get passed down to the next generation. Give your people every opportunity to succeed.
As people who love the fire service, some make it a job and others make it their life. I say make it both, not at the expense of family or other important parts of your life, but it should be high on the list. I maintain that the fire service is a way of life, not an occupation or job. We have jobs to do to maintain our way of life, but not just for the sake of doing it. Too many before us have made the ultimate sacrifice for others to live and we should not reduce what they did as just part of the job, it was a way of their life; to give selflessly and to put others first.
Make sure that when you train and come to work everyday you are doing everything you can to instill pride. Make sure you are instilling honor in your crews and peers. Make sure you are instilling and promoting integrity. Everyday. Every shift.
Let’s train to be Spartans. Spartans of the fire service, valuing the good of the whole, not of individuals. Valuing pride, honor and integrity.

Stay safe,

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Comment by Michael Emillio on June 1, 2009 at 8:25am
Very well put. I knew we were circling the same points and you really nailed them.

You are so right that "get along" begins when your crew realizes that you are there for them and not just for the blue shirt. We wear the Maltese because it speaks to tradition, and that tradition should be at the core of every fireman and every fireman should know the sacrifice that might be required of them. It should inspire them, and it should not be shirked.

Our department is, in an attempt to get some "real world" aptitude into these mostly unversed recruits, is having newboys go to a habitat for humanity build and participate from the ground up. While this is a far cry from a career in building, it does have some application. I really appreciated your reply.
Comment by Tom Londo on May 31, 2009 at 7:49pm

Good points. I would like to respond to a couple of them though. I think the reason the fire service is more receptive to men and woman who have worked in the trades is their experiences. You said yourself that your knowlege of building construction has served you well in your career. We can never have enough of that in the firehouse. Weather it is building inspections, preplans, or finding unique situations in buildings assisting on med runs, it is always good to have people on your shift that have different realms of expertice. A buisness degree doesn't help much on the ground level. I understand that there are definate pluses that come with the new generation, but the work ethic that you obtained from swinging hammers and sweating it out is becoming increasingly rare in todays youth.

I too believe that educated young people are helpful in todays fire service. I also belive that there are many good canidates entering the fire service today. They have to be able to cut it on the street though or they will never be part of the cohesive unit in the firehouse. They will never be trusted, and their crew will always feel like they are a man down just because someone who can't do the job is taking up a seat on the rig. I am sure you agree that it takes a long time to earn the trust of the older more seasoned firefighters. I for one think that is a GREAT thing. Anything you have to work hard to attain always means more than a gift.

Your point about recruit classes being more difficult is right on. We can't afford to accept people into our family that have not been tested physically and mentaly. The only difference between millitary forces and ours is our enemy. That guy who can reprogram our computer at the firehouse is great to have around, but if he can't take direction when needed, drag a downed firefighter, or vent a roof when the guys on the inside are getting their tails kicked, I don't want him/her in the fire service. They are a liability at that point. This is especially tough in rural depts. who are struggling to have enough bodies on their depts. to do the work. It is a catch 22 for many depts in my area.

Now let me be clear about one thing, I don't care what sex anyone is, their color or creed...If it's in you and you can do the job then grab an airpack and some irons and let's go to work. If you can't though I know a few places that could use some administration help. Stay safe and I am glad to see so much passion for the job on this web site. Most of the time I feel like I am preaching to the choir.
Comment by Michael Emillio on May 31, 2009 at 10:56am
I am commenting on this thread as one who is on the cusp of "generation X." I am an 8 year man and I am as prideful as one can be about being a fireman.

I believe that I interpreted the intent and tone of these entries correctly, and though I would never dream to tell seasoned men and women their jobs, I would caution that to some it might sound like the "old salties" griping some more just like the old man on his porch.

Everyone has had "the good old days." I for one admire those who have come before me. As a result, I typically give credence to what they say, and I do not buck orders, I respect rank and hold company integrity and pride in highest regard. With all that said, I can see flaws in my fire service, in the fire service as it pertains to the obstinance of that service and its inertia, its lack of motivation to change outdated modalities.

Please do not interpret my writings with whining undertones, I do not wish to offend any previously sighted comments on this thread. I believe that had you all continued to examine your aforementioned points, you would also have sighted the need for the fire service to accept some of the input from younger firemen and women, and not to blindly and categorically dismiss them. I am only bringing to light the issue as one who can sometimes see that: "because that's the way we've always done it," is not a qualifying statement.

I have been told that I was "hired from the neck down" by the old salties, told to "dummy up,"
usually in a joking response to something that I did or said. We've probably all heard similar. If the fire department is to continue to progress though, we need to continue to hire men and women who can think on their feet. Safety is rapidly becoming an issue and one that everyone on the fireground shares in responsibilty, it wouldn't be prudent to dismiss a concern simply because it came from a newbie, so why is it that input from someone who feels they have a legitimate gripe is dismissed for similar reasons?

In direct opposition to progress, though, as stated previously, is the hiring of those without a "working" knowledge of the world. I came up as a youth swinging a hammer for my old man and laboring on jobsites. Dad did this for me, >to me?, </</b>i>to make it plainly apparent to me that it was something that I did not want to do for the rest of my life. While I do not disparage those who do this for a living, I think that we can all agree that it is a tough living. My limited knowledge of building construction and a good work ethic has served me well in my career, but what I have since seen is that those in our profession embrace blue collar recruits and dismiss those whose career choices veered to the white collar.

I think that there is a place for these men and women on the job. I think more importantly than hiring on a hunch based on a candidates generation, the service would be better served by really examining work history. There are plenty of us who like to work. Dedication to a job should point toward committment. I also feel that the probationary year should have more teeth. The service should, with proof of inability, be more able to fire men and women who don't have what it takes. As was so eloquently sited previously, firefighters are a select few. This should be a service in which only the best are taken.
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on May 25, 2009 at 12:17pm

Thanks for contributing and good luck in your fire service career and life. I'm sure you will be just fine; after all, you are here with the rest of us : )
Comment by Tom Londo on May 22, 2009 at 10:21am
I believe that this lack of pride and motivation comes from a new line of thinking in this maturing generation. This is the first generation of PC individuals in the history of the country now being promoted. These young adults have spent most of their lives not keeping score in sports and not being held back in school because it may hurt their feelings. This generation lacks the need to work. The fortitude to push through hard times and feel the satisfaction of putting it all on the line win or loose. They don't have the skill set to deal with lose, rejection, criticism, or negative feedback of any kind. The members who do have the motivation try and try to get the ball rolling but it is the preverbial unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Eventually even the most motivated firefighters find their resolve tested. We are taking all types of people into this profession now because depts. are afraid to get sued or end up in some other law suit. People who can't cut it are put on the front lines and spend their careers being carried by other members who can do the work. How exciting would the NFL be if anyone could play? How much pride would there be involved in any of it? We need to get back to the mentality that you were either born to do this or you weren't. In the movie 300 you were either a Spartan Soldier or you weren't! I would rather have a dept. of 30 who ARE FIREFIGHTERS than a dept. of 100 who aren't. You can bet that those 30 would never forget the traditions of their dept and where they came from. Those select few would work their tails off to be the best dept. around. And that my fellow members is Pride and it is a beautiful thing.
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on May 18, 2009 at 9:22am
I understand. We, at Florissant are talking about making assignments for crews by engine co. or truck co. as they arrive. I have the same thoughts about the training. I would like to see a curriculum for fire officer level classes that are offered in the area on a regular basis besides the MUFRTI fire officer cert program. Also, VES, we need more training for and get people to better understand it. I bring it up and people start talking about freelancing; they obviously don't understand the concept and that is scary.
Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on May 17, 2009 at 6:06pm
I don't have a great answer for that. Like you said, do the best we can and hope those coming in catch on and "get it." !

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