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We know we don't spend every waking hour at the firehouse running calls or training or working out. There typically is some down time during your shift or rotation.

As a prospective officer candidate and informal leader, what you do with your down time can make a huge difference in how you are perceived and what separates you from others interested in promoting up.

I have seen firefighters spend hours on end looking on the internet for cars, car parts, campers, motorcycles and vacation locations but you ask them to read an article during "their" time and you might as well be asking them to cut off an arm and hand it over.

Although doing those things are perfectly okay, if done at appropriate times and frequency, don't let that define you as a firefighter. Don't let those actions be what you're best known for.

I know a guy that has been a career firefighter for a long time and if you ask what he is best known for the overwhelming answer would be all of the side businesses he has had and currently runs from his phone while off duty and at the firehouse. He has all of the potential in the world, his motivation is making a dollar and his firefighting 'job' allows him to pursue other 'careers'.

The hell of it is that gugy could be a great firefighter and officer. But, he has no interest in doing anything extra for the fire service. He has no interest in initiating actions to improve himself as a firefighter or those around him. Will he train when it's scheduled? Yes. Will he do what he's told? Yes. Is he a bad firefighter? I would argue, no. Is he officer material? I would say no, but could be.

He has the skills to be a good officer, but his priorities are skewed and not where a potential officer's goals need to be. It's almost a waste.

The point here is that if you want to make a difference and you want to lead, you have to do the extra things frequently enough to make them habit. You have to spend extra time reading a LODD report, a near miss report or new study or paper. You have to pull the fire service books off of the shelf to look up certain building construction types, tactical challenges listed that would apply to a building in your still area and the list goes on.

Not because you have to, but beause you WANT to. You want to better yourself and those around you. You want to be prepared for whatever might come your way. Use that down time and personal time while on duty not only to take care of business that needs attention in your pesonal life, but use that time to make yourself better. It will be noticed.

Be eager, indulge yourself in what the fire service has to offer. You'll find that the more you know and understand, the more confidence you'll gain and other members will come to you for anwers to questions and for advice. That's a good thing and that is making a difference.

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