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So you have put the time in to study for the promotional exam. You have made it through the assessment centers and the interview process and have been handed a new t-shirt. The letters on your back have turned gold and you are ready to start your journey as a Company Officer, or are you? Anyone can wear a shirt with gold letters on their backs. If we choose to not take the responsibility and live up to the title that is on our chest, then it’s just a t-shirt and nothing else. The shirt and the title alone won’t do it. At a recent class up at the National Fire Academy I heard a Chief Officer talk about some of his frustrations with the Fire Service. He said at one point: “People want to BE Captain, and not DO Captain”. Meaning that they want the title, the pay, the position, and nothing else. There is a whole lot more that comes with that title and if you choose not to take the responsibility, then all you will be is a seat filler on that apparatus. That shirt means nothing if you aren’t out there developing your crews. If you are a Company Officer that doesn’t invest time into your firefighters, shame on you. Shame on you, because they are the single most important thing in that firehouse. They are not there to work for you, you are there to work for them. This is the mentality you need to be walking around with. You should be training you firefighters all of the time. I’m not saying that you have to have them in turnout gear doing drills every single day, but do something. Maybe it’s just a 30 minute conversation around the galley table or the front bumper of the engine. Maybe it is simply parking the truck and walking through a building for 20 minutes. Or even taking a look at some forcible entry issues at your next grocery store visit. There is far too much information for you to not pass along to your firefighters. Your goal should be to train your firefighters to take your spot. You should want to share and teach them as much as you possibly can before they are the ones who are going after the gold letters. I always love the officers that have everyone goes home stickers on their cars, or union logos with a red line through it, yet, are not training their crews. How hypocritical is that? How do you expect to contribute to firefighter survival? I can tell you it’s not through watching TV in your bunkroom or hanging out in the office all day. In my opinion if you are not training your firefighters you are committing the ultimate Company Officer sin. The shirt means nothing if you are not willing to have accountability. Accountability for yourself and the firefighters you work for. Take ownership of your mistakes and make sure others in your firehouse take ownership of theirs. Some will look at accountability as a synonym for finger pointing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. When we hold people or ourselves accountable, we demonstrate integrity and the desire to get better and carry the organization forward. Most importantly, we allow people to develop their strengths and identify areas of weakness for improvement. I am very thankful I always had officers that held me accountable when I did something wrong. It showed me where I needed to improve as well as told me that my officer gave a damn about my success here. This shirt will mean nothing if you don’t set the example! Firefighters don’t want to follow someone who will talk a good game and then do nothing to back it up. Set the example in all you do. From your uniform appearance, to the way you wear your PPE, and the way you conduct yourself in public. When it comes to training, get involved and lead from the front. Get down and crawl around with your crew. Don’t just be standing on the sidelines pointing fingers. They will have all eyes on you when it comes to the decisions you make, so make the right ones. I had a friend of mine grow frustrated with the promotional process one year. He said, I just don’t understand how this person is walking around in a gold shirt, and yet, does absolutely nothing. I didn’t have a good answer for him at the time, and I don’t think I have the right answer right now. It blows my mind that there are people out there like that. All I could tell him was, it’s just a t-shirt, nothing more. It’s up to us to make sure that t-shirt means something.

Jarrod Sergi

REaL Fire Training LLC

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