Joseph Kitchen, Bath Twp. Fire Department (Lima, Ohio)
As many of our fire departments celebrate the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, we will proudly fly the U.S. flag in front of our stations, display our trucks in parades throughout our communities, and reflect on the freedom we all enjoy thanks to our military veterans.
It’s not uncommon for municipalities to give extra credit to veterans as part of the firefighter hiring process. This is a practice that I applaud and hope that more agencies begin to follow. Over the last several years, thousands of military personnel have begun to transition from their military careers into civilian life. Sadly, a large number are still unemployed and are struggling to find jobs back here at home. It is my hope that fire departments across this country will recognize this outstanding pool of potential applicants is out there, ready and willing to join the fire service. Many have access to education funding through the G.I. Bill and are just looking for an opportunity to start a career and obtain gainful employment.
Our fire department was organized in 1957, and was led by our first chief, Gaylord Faze. Chief Faze was a decorated WW II veteran. He served as member of the elite Seabees, building roads and airstrips in the middle of jungles under the toughest of circumstances imaginable. Veterans of this era are referred to as “the greatest generation,” a title well deserved and earned. Fast forward to today, and I believe that the current Iraq/Afghanistan era military veterans are the greatest of our current generation, and they deserve our respect and our assistance.
As of April 2015, our department employs 24 firefighters, of which 8 are former United States military veterans. This is a statistic of which we are very proud. Each of these fine young men brings talents and experiences to our department which impacts all of us in a positive way.
If hiring veterans is something your agency is contemplating or has not yet taken advantage of; here are a few reasons I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this amazing opportunity:
They learn quickly. Firefighters are hit with a tremendous amount of information during their initial training. Fire and E.M.S. is more complex now than ever, and these men and women understand how to train and prepare. Generally, they excel during their training period. They also have a good handle on new technology and also have mechanical expertise.
They are leaders. Even as brand new employees, these veterans understand leadership. They bring leadership skills with them to your department on their first day.
Teamwork. As part of a crew, truck company, or battalion, they know the importance of teamwork. These employees “get” brotherhood and understand the values of the fire service because many of them lived this on the battlefield.
They do well under pressure. Firefighters are put in many tough situations; many are life and death with decisions that need to be made quickly and accurately. Many of these veterans have been in situations far more dangerous than a residential house fire or motor vehicle crash. These employees are solid; they react and perform well under difficult circumstances.
They deserve it. These individuals served our nation for us. The risked their lives and left their families. Many saw terrible things and overcame huge obstacles. As leaders in the fire service, we owe it to them to give them a chance.
In closing, I want thank every veteran who has served our country. The freedom we enjoy is because of them and we should all be forever grateful. I urge you to reach out to these men and women and give them an opportunity within your organization. Finally, I would like to share with you the names of the Bath Township Fire Department veterans: Justin Kirk – Marines, Anthony Kroeger – Air Force, Bruce Music – Army, Eric Music – Army, Ryan Smith – Marines, Matt Stinebaugh – Navy, Franklin Veliz – Army, and Jeffrey Wold – Army. It is an honor for us to have them as part of our organization.
Joseph Kitchen, OFC, is the Chief of the Bath Twp. Fire Dept. (Lima, Ohio.) He began his career in 1990 and has served as fire chief since 2002. He holds degrees in EMS and fire science, and in 2012 was named “Fire Officer of the Year” by the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety. Follow Chief Kitchen on Twitter @bathtwpchief and visit his department’s website at www.bathtwpfd.com