My close friends, family and colleagues know that I just completed a 5 year assignment as a Chief Officer in SE Connecticut. I’ve never written about my command because approvals for publishing and using their name was prohibitive. However, now that I’m done, I was Chief of the Mohegan Tribal Fire Department, a Mohegan Tribal Government agency located on a Native American reservation located in Uncasville, CT. The members of the Department are highly trained, highly aggressive, and a very talented group of men and women who understood hard work, the value of a heavy training program and had a culture of safety second to none. They gave me bragging rights every single day I worked there and now the new Chief, the former Deputy, gets to enjoy the same rights. Every Fire Chief in the nation should be blessed with a crew like I had.
But what happens when you leave? I don’t mean it in terms of “it will fall apart without me.” No way, not that gang and certainly not under their new skipper. Listen folks, everyone can be replaced. If you think you can’t be replaced, think again. We just passed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was a little guy when that happened but make no mistake, while the Dallas FD was out on the boulevard washing down what remained of the President, Linden B. Johnson was being sworn in as President of the United States on Air Force 1 at 35,000 feet. Everyone can be replaced. What I mean is, how do you just turn it off? I still worry about the guys in my last command let alone this one. I keep in touch with the Chiefs just to keep up on what’s new at the job and how the guys are. Any new babies, marriages, divorces, engagements, grand kids, DIF’s, promotions, new hires, retirements, etc.
Someone once said, “it’s not what you do while you’re there, is what happens after you leave.” I guess a bit of my keeping touch is to see where the department has gone. Are they progressing or digressing? What have the new Chiefs done? They are going to make changes. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have full command of the department. Chiefs that leave or retire who get angry at the next guy who makes changes, forgot that when they took the reins, they made changes too. Both Chiefs have progressed and have made good changes. (Even if I didn’t agree with those changes, it really wouldn’t matter much would it?) You see, some of us suffer from ownership. A Chief in CT told me that after he became Chief of Department (hired in from the outside), the Deputy who retired upon his hire, would show up at his fires to see how “his” guys were doing. I get it.
So as I await my next assignment whether it’s in or out of uniform, the guys and gals that I worked with will always be “my guys.” What happens when you leave? Hopefully all good things. If you did everything you could along the way to leave it just a little better than you found it, the department will bear the fruits of your labor. Stay in touch with your guys. I hope to, for a long time. (Thanks for the memories MTFD.)