Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, “they look out for their guys”? I have heard it on several occasions and it has often made me wonder, what the true meaning of these words is. I have had conversations with fellow firefighters and it typically is directed at the company officer. Sometimes the conversation consists of firefighters being in trouble and things being swept under the rug. Sometimes, there is talk of things that are going on around the station that are unprofessional and an officer steps in and shields their people from any disciplinary action. Then sometimes, it is used a justification for a poor company officer neglecting responsibility and placing it on others. “He doesn’t do any training with us, but he looks out for his guys”. She doesn’t really do anything around the station, but she really looks out for her guys”. Are you or your officer truly looking out for the guys?
So I ask you, what does it mean when you say, I look out for my guys? I can tell you what it means to me. As a supervisor in the military I held that phrase very close to my heart; I do in my fire service career as well. To me it means holding them accountable. As the company officer it is my responsibility to make sure that my firefighters take ownership in everything that they do. Right or wrong we own what we do and if needed, corrective action takes place. To me it means making sure my firefighters are fully prepared for battle on the fire ground. I tell myself every day that my job as the company officer is to train my firefighters to think sharp and make smart tactical decisions in the absence of policy or clear direction. It is my duty to ensure that they provide the best patient care possible, and when they or I fall short, we hold ourselves accountable. It is my job as the company officer to ensure that I mentor my firefighters professionally to ensure they have the ability to go as far as the organization will allow them to go. I believe strongly in looking out for my guys; looking out for them in the right way. Allowing bad patient care to go uncorrected is not looking out for your guys; allowing a poor uniform appearance is not looking out for your guys; failure to mentor or coach is not looking out for your guys; and not training or preparing your firefighters every day to work in this dangerous environment is absolutely not looking out for your guys.
So the next time you hear someone say this phrase, really think about why they are saying it. Ensure it is said with meaning behind it and not just empty words. If you are saying it, mean it, and for the right reasons. As company officers truly do the best you can every day to look out for your guys. Mentor them, teach them, back them up and support them. Do everything you can to help prepare them to act in your absence, and truly, “look out for your guys”.