My wife and I were watching a movie a couple of nights ago (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) where they referenced 'Weapon X'. For anyone that hasn't seen Origins, 'Weapon X' is a clandestine research project that genetically engineers humans and mutants, making them into super weapons. They take the best (or the worst, depending on your perspective) parts of numerous individuals to make one fully, badass person. Full disclosure for anyone that doesn't know me, I'm a huge nerd. Regardless, this got me thinking: if we could genetically engineer firefighters, what would they look like? What qualities, knowledge, and skills would they possess? Let's take this analysis a step further and think about what type of firefighter, student, medic, officer, instructor, etc. YOU really want to be.
- An assassin on the fireground?
- A humble beast on the training ground?
- A brilliant clinician?
- A passionate, loyal leader?
- An inspirational instructor?
Hopefully you answered, "Obviously!" to all of these. What else can you add to the list? That's right, I want you to actually stop reading this and take a couple minutes to write down your responses. Seriously, I'll wait.
Self analysis is necessary for anyone that wishes to be truly great at something, whether it's football, fatherhood, or firefighting. We commonly do different versions of this, whether it's a formalized AAR, or just replaying a call in our mind. A couple quick rules to follow though: be honest with yourself, be specific, and take your time. Remember, this is for you...no one else.
That was the easy part, the difficult (and fun) part is figuring out how to gain this knowledge, learn these skills, and embody these qualities. Since genetic engineering is a little beyond my scope, I am going to focus on apprenticing. The goal of an apprenticeship is simply to take the best from our mentors to try to make ourselves a little better than we were yesterday.
There's so much that we can learn from so many on the job. To paraphrase Aaron Fields - by going to classes and conferences, reading articles and books, and asking questions 'we get to pick who our senior men are going to be.' How awesome is that? We decide our destiny. We can take conventional forcible entry skills from Irons & Ladders, take some extrication knowledge from Isaac Frazier, and learn some leadership qualities from Mark vonAppen. Not a bad start...what else can we add?
Through technology the world is getting smaller, and access to expert instructors is at our fingertips. I've been fortunate enough to apprentice under some giants - Brennan, Viscuso, Fredericks, Hartin, etc. These giants, and countless others, have engineered me into the firefighter I am today. Don't get confused, just because the concept of an apprenticeship is simple doesn't mean that it's going to be easy. Just like everything else worthwhile in this world, it's going to take hours of studying, hard-work, and sweat - LOTS OF SWEAT!
As important as it is to take from those that we look up to, we also need to take from those that we disagree with, dislike, or downright disrespect. We CAN learn something from everyone. If you don't like seeing your co-worker come to work every day just to keep the recliner from floating away, then learn from it and work your a** off. If you don't like an instructor who obviously isn't prepared, or an officer that starts tweaking and screaming on the radio during a job - do everything you can to make sure you don't repeat these mistakes. If you don't like something, don't do it...it's that simple.
Here comes the fun part; go back to that list that you made and start making your own 'Weapon X'. Choose senior men and women that can help you reach your goals...but choose wisely. Read their books and articles, attend their classes, ask them questions, and get sweaty with them. Remember, YOU dictate how good your will become...no excuses.
Now let's go get sweaty.