As I am sitting here at my desk after finishing up daily round of paperwork, daily tour log and browsing the interwebs to kill some time, I sit here and ponder the job. How much I love it, how much I want other brother and sister firefighters to love it and want other people to understand just how amazing this job is. How I believe in this job, how I believe in tactical proficiency and how I believe that what we are doing is great, as long as we are doing it for the right reasons and doing the right things whilst doing it. Very quickly my mind turned back to tactical competency and any guy on my shift will tell you about how much I love training, they may not be as into it as I am, but they sure as hell know I love it. Recently, my organization took on a young volunteer, I knew the kid from when he attended the same drill school I did a few classes after mine with a different department, so I knew he had some basis for understanding of the job, even though he is a relatively inexperienced but certified volunteer.
As I am with any new guy, he got a talk where I lay out how things work on my shift day and he got a vital tip to survive my shift guys: the Rookie Survival Guide (Jess Anderson is a genius for compiling this). I won't say I have the toughest, strongest or best firefighters on my shift, but I definitely have the ones with the highest of expectations and do their jobs well, and those expectations come with merit. To be respected by the guys on my tour, is to know that you have a firm understanding of not only your role, but the job itself. We do not handle with kid gloves, we drill, we counsel sternly and at times we may push your mental bounds to see if you can handle the harsh realities of the world that we live in. We are B-Shift, and we will make you proficient, or you will quit coming around us.
After an incident where the young associate had invoked my ire, we had a talk in which I explained my frustration with his performance and recommended that he practice with his equipment to ensure that it did not happen again. A few tours later, to no avail, it happened again. I did not have to get on him, as my subordinates did, however, I told him that I would personally lead training evolutions to ensure his proficiency in his basic skills. Sure enough, young member has yet to return to me to prove that he can do it, until he signed up for a detail that I was commanding and it was far too late for him to renig. During the detail, I had him performing gear drills until his times were sufficient for my liking. Since then, I've heard through the gapevine that he's not coming back to my shift again.
When I heard that, I was met with a sudden disheartening feeling, to hear that someone quit coming around because I expect TOO much from them. I sat back and thought about it and I had to ask myself a few questions:
Do I have realistic expectations of new guys?
Have I provided him/them with acceptable training and enabled them to better themselves?
Am I and is my shift TOO hard on new people?
I sat at that question and wondered long and hard. I am 25 years old, I have been a member of this service since I was 18, on the job as a career since I was 20, I'm still relatively new, still learning the ropes, especially as an officer. By no means am I an old salt who has more time on the firehouse toilet than most of these guys have in training (YET). I think that my expectations are fair, I expect nothing more out of any member than I expect out of myself. I will do chores, I know my apparatus, I work out, and I train like my life depends on it. I am treating volunteers my own age, as I was treated and that was NOT with kid gloves.
I hope I get a chance to talk to the guy again, because in the end, his heart is in the right place and he has the mind for it, he just needs to apply himself. If any of you mentors, officers or new guys out there run into some trouble, maybe you can take some time to do what i'm (hoping) to do and talk to the person, one-on-one and communicate some important points in the most diplomatic manner possible, that being:
Beyond that, I hope everyone is having a fantastic 2015, and I hope to see you all at FDIC International 2015!
Train Hard and Keep the Faith,