The other day I got to do something I greatly enjoy about this job, recognizing our folks who stood out and made a real difference in our department at our annual Promotional and Awards Banquet. It was a great evening of fellowship with our firefighters and officers and their families, celebrating accomplishments and contributions made towards improving our department and serving the community we protect. Which got me to thinking of something Chief Frank Viscuso said: "Leaders oftern become apparent long before they earn a title". The last award of the evening is our Firefighter of the Year award. The young man who was the recipient this year fit that statement to a tee: A 6 year veteran, he had come here with prior experience at another department. He had not only put himself through one of the local college- ran fire academies, he had also went to Paramedic school on his own. Two years after joining the department, he had taken the TEEX Driver Operator course, the Mobile Water Course, and the Aerial Operator course and when he became eligible, took the Engineers test and was promoted to Engineer. He also became certified to proctor practical training for the Engineer program through TEEX. Recently he became a certified TEEX Instructor for those same programs. Since I had met him he had always impressed me with his work ethic, his positive outlook, and his can-do spirit. When I go out on the bay he is usually out there "schooling" the new folks on something, whether it be maintenance, firefighter skills, or how the pump works, he is always sharing his knowledge to assist our people to be better. When his name came across my desk on a recommendation for Firefighter of the Year, I took notice. Over the last year I had asked this young man to move to a different shift not once, but twice, in order to even out shifts with Medics and Engineers. Both times he said to me without hesitation, "No problem Chief, whatever you need me to do to make the department better". Even though he had just been recently certified to teach, I again asked him to step up and teach our Aerial course to our new acting engineers and again he did not hesitate but jumped at the chance. (All of them passed by the way). His Captains continually tell me how he remains positive even when things aren't going as good as we all want them to, and inspires his teammates to stay motivated. Recently he began training for a "move up" position (our departments term for an acting officer) and he is once again showing the leadership traits I have seen in him all along. So it was really a no-brainer for the Chief and I to agree with the recommendations from his Officers and co workers that he was truly deserving of Firefighter of the Year. It also reminded me of another valuable lesson. As a Chief Officer, Company Officer, or Senior firefighter, get out there among your folks and see who tomorrow's leaders are. Listen to their Officers and co-workers and see what they have to say about them. Then take some time to spend with them and let them know not only that you appreciate them, but encourage them to continue to improve and perform and to actively seek the opportunity to "Step Up and Lead" (Thank you for that great book Chief Viscuso!) I am where I am today because some really great people I had the privilege to serve with took the time to mentor, encourage, and teach me what I needed to get to the next level even though at the time I didn't see it in myself. Take a moment and do it! Share all the great things you learned that were shared with you. None of us got here all alone. Somewhere along the way, someone saw something in us and gave us the knowledge to get to our next level. To those folks in my life, I will be eternally greatful, and to repay them I pass it on to the next generation at every opportunity and I make a point to let them know how proud I am of them and their efforts to continue our great tradition. Stay safe brothers and Sisters!s often become apparent long before they earn a title.