”Where’s The Brotherhood”
Most of us have seen the television commercial with the elderly lady who says, “Where’s the beef?” Well, I am not that woman, but I am asking, “Where’s the Brotherhood?”
You hear a lot about the Brotherhood in the fire service, including about and how strong it is. Most of us believe in it, even though some only pay lip service to the idea.
Have you ever been in a position in which you needed the support of the Brotherhood but been left wondering where it is? Where does it go? In your own fire district, have you experienced the camaraderie that can stem from it?
It seems that firefighters in larger districts practice what they preach when it comes to the Brotherhood. They understand what it is and why it is so important to us. In my experience, however, this often is not the case in some smaller departments.
I have worked at several smaller departments in Ohio, and I have seen many of us speak of the Brotherhood but not act in ways that support it—and in turn each other.
Why is it so hard to act upon? Why can’t we all just believe in the Brotherhood and do what it takes to make our common bond stronger?
The Brotherhood is something you feel on the inside, not something can be taught in a classroom. It doesn’t go away when we leave the station at the end of a shift.
We depend on each other every duty day, but what about when we are off work? Is the brotherhood still there? Yes, it should be! Is it really always there? No.
The fire service programs are producing recruits every day who are younger and younger, it seems. These additions to our family often show up for their first day of work and treat firefighters with 30 years’ experience like they are obsolete pieces of equipment.
Why is this, and what can we do about it? Times have changed in smaller districts especially, and these new recruits know it.
Today, if a senior member tries to discipline a younger colleague, he is often called into his supervisor’s office and reprimanded. The superior officer tells the senior member to back off because he or she is afraid the new firefighter will file a lawsuit of some sort against the department.
We live in a lawsuit-happy society, and articles in firefighter magazines bear this out.
What can we do about this dynamic? In the fire service, we have gotten away from mentoring the younger generations. As soon as a new firefighter arrives for duty, he or she often gets teased, even harassed. They really are not welcomed; therefore they feel the need to respond inappropriately.
If those of us who have been around for a while would take charge and mentor the younger firefighter and show him or her how things are done in the fire service, it would change the younger person’s attitude.
I believe that it would help create a bond—let them in the family on Day 1—and show them what Brotherhood is really all about.
Instead of teasing a new firefighter about, teach him or her. Help show them the way. Who knows, the new person might end up saving your life on the job or help you in a time of great personal crisis. Lead them by example, and maybe the new member of your department will become the personification of what the Brotherhood means to you.
After all, we are all family, no matter whether we have one day or 20 years on the job. Let’s do our part to keep the great tradition of the Brotherhood alive.
Remember be safe and train, as training will save lives!
Your Friend, Todd C. McKee