Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

”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

Views: 330

Comment

You need to be a member of Fire Engineering Training Community to add comments!

Join Fire Engineering Training Community

Comment by Ed Huff on August 20, 2010 at 10:47am
Excellent article Todd. I feel that every new firefigher should be made to read the book "Pride and Ownership" and then sit and watch the video of Chief Laskey. You know I have been in the fire service for several years and you and I have talked about the lack of pride and brotherhood in the younger generation. So I guess if the schools can't stress the importance of it then it is up to us veterens to lead the way and make sure the tradition is carried on.
Comment by Michael T Rapcavage on September 23, 2008 at 6:35pm
Very good article.The fire company that I belong to, does have the true meaning of brotherhood.When we train we train hard and we have fun. We comment each other on the good and we learn from our mistakes,thanks to our training officers and the members Everybody respects each other ,and we do have fun. Take care. Wear your gear from head to toe.
Comment by Tiger Schmittendorf on August 8, 2008 at 7:15am
Todd -

While, as you know from reading my article, that I share very similar sentiments towards the ideals of brotherhood, I do disagree with your portrayal that the lack of real brotherhood is only prevalent in smaller departments.

My experience has been quite the contrary and I could cite several examples. I don't believe that the problem is truly systemic as of yet, but there are certainly pockets of it in our fire service and more so in our society.

Our challenge is to stem the tide and make sure that the puddles of bad attitudes don't flow together to form a lake, or worse yet, an ocean.


Stay safe. Train often.
Comment by Ben Fleagle on August 6, 2008 at 3:34am
Brother Berg's said it best. I've also heard it put this way and I feel it is very appropriate, I use it constantly to remind myself who this is all about:

"I am not here for me, I am here for we, and we are here for them" --Unknown.
Comment by Chad Berg on August 5, 2008 at 11:47pm
Great Article Todd.

I can see your frustration running down this page.

Somebody once told me that "Brotherhood is not measured in how guys treat you and do for you, it is measured in how you treat the guys and what you do for them."
I have found that it has nothing to do with small or big town/cities. I've seen it go both ways in both sized of departments, amoung volunteer and paid. It has to do with priorities within the members of the organization. If the top priority is too get a good contract, keep out the paid guys,get rid of the vollies, blame the chief, or the younger generation, that's where the energy goes.
Instead lets go help Billy reroof his house. It will make him feel good that we care about him and his family's well being.
How he responds back is all in the name of brotherhood.
Comment by Ben Fleagle on August 5, 2008 at 8:27pm
Brother Todd,

Excellent piece, and I say "Brother" knowing that I mean it. Many of us feel the same, particularly in small towns, however, I am on the West or "Left" Coast and have found many large departments utterly lacking in Brotherhood or at least that which is extended to other firefighters from outside their union local.
It isn't small or large, I think, like our brother in Spain said, a matter of how close the firefighter is to the experience, the effort, the suffering. A "Brotherhood" is born out of fortitude in a group effort, working towards a worthy goal. Firefighters who don't suffer much, don't feel much Brotherhood. Or....the rank and file suffer together, but the Command staff does not. In either case, the same result comes about.

Excellent post. We should keep hashing this.

Ben
Comment by George H. Potter on July 12, 2008 at 1:45pm
Todd,

I got into FF 50 years ago as a volunteer in a small Maryland rural VFD, and although I got out of active fire service a few years later, I have been closely involved in fire protection up to today. I still consider myself as a brother as I consider you active FF's to be my brothers.

Reflecting back over the years though, there have been many subtle changes in attitudes all over the world. You can still go to a fire house in any country, and even though you don't speak their language nor they yours, there is an essence of communication, because of our common bonds.

I had a sad experience in Madrid, Spain however, that made me wonder if the bonds are shaking. Last September I sounded out some Madrid FD officers to propose a minute of silence during the shift on Sept. 11 at all of the city's 12 stations. Response from command was nil. However, discussing the matter later on with several rank & file FF's, all made similar comments; "why didn't you contact me, we would have done it at my station and invited you to lunch". This confirmed my own thoughts over these last few years that officers who have not ascended up through the ranks just do not know what we feel inside. Of the more than 2,000 "leaders" in the Spanish fire service, less than 500 have had any real first line fire fighting experience, nor served active shifts nor have they lived and breathed the brotherhood.

Maybe I'm just a bit peeved on this, but I felt hurt. I was living in Madrid on 911 and I tried to get to NYC to offer my two bits worth of help. I also cried that day. We are brothers, several millions of brothers AND sisters around the world.

Be careful out there,

George Potter
Madrid, Spain
Comment by George H. Potter on July 12, 2008 at 1:45pm
Todd,

I got into FF 50 years ago as a volunteer in a small Maryland rural VFD, and although I got out of active fire service a few years later, I have been closely involved in fire protection up to today. I still consider myself as a brother as I consider you active FF's to be my brothers.

Reflecting back over the years though, there have been many subtle changes in attitudes all over the world. You can still go to a fire house in any country, and even though you don't speak their language nor they yours, there is an essence of communication, because of our common bonds.

I had a sad experience in Madrid, Spain however, that made me wonder if the bonds are shaking. Last September I sounded out some Madrid FD officers to propose a minute of silence during the shift on Sept. 11 at all of the city's 12 stations. Response from command was nil. However, discussing the matter later on with several rank & file FF's, all made similar comments; "why didn't you contact me, we would have done it at my station and invited you to lunch". This confirmed my own thoughts over these last few years that officers who have not ascended up through the ranks just do not know what we feel inside. Of the more than 2,000 "leaders" in the Spanish fire service, less than 500 have had any real first line fire fighting experience, nor served active shifts nor have they lived and breathed the brotherhood.

Maybe I'm just a bit peeved on this, but I felt hurt. I was living in Madrid on 911 and I tried to get to NYC to offer my two bits worth of help. I also cried that day. We are brothers, several millions of brothers AND sisters around the world.

Be careful out there,

George Potter
Madrid, Spain
Comment by Joe Heim on July 11, 2008 at 8:37pm
Excellent article, we need to get back to the true meaning of the Brotherhood!!

Stay Safe, Brother!!

Joe

Policy Page

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE

Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to www.fireengineering.com/archives.

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page HERE. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail peter.prochilo@clarionevents.com.

FE Podcasts

Thursday

Tailboard Talk

with

Dane Carley, Craig Nelson, and Jeff Wallin

CALL IN AND JOIN THE SHOW

1-877-497-3973 (Toll Free)
or 1-760-454-8852

Check out the schedule of
UPCOMING PODCASTS

© 2019   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service