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I've been blessed to sit through Chief Dave McGrail’s (Denver Fire) class on Engine Company Standpipe Operations and High Rise Command and Control multiple times. During his class, Chief McGrail introduced us to his Categories of Excellence. It is a six level scale. As follows:
1. Total BAD A**! = Frighteningly Awesome!
2. Top Shelf Fireman = Does his job with excellence, and is consistently “into and engaged in the job”
3. Good Guy = Does his job, does it well, may or may not be “into the job”
4. Nice Guy = Hard to dislike, but just doesn’t get it. Might come after you if you need rescued but will never complete the task
5. Complete Boob = Not a turd but just plan incompetent!
6. Real Turd = No redeeming quality, at all. OXYGEN THIEF!
Chief McGrail’s scale got me thinking. The fire service is full of guys and gals that are 3 through 6 on the scale. The vast majority fit into this area. We are surrounded by them. Employees that show up to work, some who do their job but just don’t care for the job and others who don’t even care for or do the job at all. They are not students of the fire service and they couldn’t care less. These employees are apathetic to the job at best. Some attend classes to learn for promotional processes while others care so little that they spend 20 or so years barely scraping by.
Across the nation, day in and day out at the fire house there is no passion, no desire to train or to read. Not to say that training never gets brought up, but rarely is that idea put into practice. Station life is a routine and besides going out on runs, it is pretty much predictable.

I often wonder what the fire service would be like if we all were students of the job and on a continual quest to be the best of the best, what could we as a crew accomplish? It’s hard being a student of the craft when you are the only one around. The apathetic attitude or even the negative attitude of others around you can easily bring you down.
Not everyone is going to strive to be a top shelf fireman. Don’t be discouraged though, there are thousands of firefighters out there that do care about the job and about brother and sister firefighters. They show this through the desire to learn and train, continually gaining knowledge, not just for promotions or raises but in order to be a better firefighter.

We should all strive to be a "Total Bad A**".

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