I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to talk about the obligation of the company officer. Today I wanted to reinforce the importance of keeping your eyes on the line. The line in our fire service is often times used in reference to the street, the station, the everyday operations that we are involved in. You may have heard phrases such as: I can’t wait to get back on the line. Meaning, I can’t wait to get back to my station and go to work.
Many company officers have goals to reach past the line and become staff or executive officers. I think that is a fine goal, it is one of mine. I want to be the Chief of my department one day (at least right now). Though we all have these goals I think it’s important to keep one thing in mind here. No matter how far we look ahead, we must keep our eyes on the line. We must constantly stay emerged in the craft of firefighting. If you find yourself committing too much time to that next step, you may miss what’s going on around you. I am not saying don’t chase your goals. What I am saying is you have to have a balance between where you are going and what you are doing.
When we put those trumpets on our collar it is not a pass to do less. It is not a pass to watch someone else do the work. It is definitely not a pass to go heels up in your room on a recliner and let the station run itself. You have an even greater responsibility to stay connected to the firefighting fundamentals you hopefully trained on and tried to perfect as a firefighter. Your crews will be counting on you for advice and guidance on strategy and tactics, ladders, good search practices, and how to aggressively and smartly attack a fire.
If you want to be a successful company officer, you must remember to keep your eyes on the line. So, how do we do that? We get involved in drills and training around the station. You read that right didn’t you? We get INVOLVED in training. We don’t just become spectators. We must continue our professional development, and not just in the areas of leadership and management. That stuff is extremely important don’t get me wrong, but are you committing the same time to becoming the best you can at forcible entry, stretching lines, and throwing ladders?
So, your shirt may say Lieutenant or Captain, but at the end of the day, you are a FIREFIGHTER. You must act like it!
For the non-officers reading this right now, you could say it would make sense that to be a good officer, you have to be a good firefighter before you get promoted. I would agree wholeheartedly. In my experience if someone is a mediocre firefighter, they just become a mediocre officer, or worse an apathetic one.
For the officers reading this, be firefighters. Focus on your goals and your responsibilities as an officer, with the most important one being a student of this firefighting game.
Trial by Fire