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Brotherhood

By

Martin Hamrick

Jonesboro Fire Department Training Division

The world we live in today is full of fast paced activities, super sized meal deals, and $3.00 gasoline. And even though we may make more money than our parents, the dollar is not worth near as much as it was then. Even our children are “growing” at an accelerated rate; my daughter is 4 years old and in preschool is learning things that I didn’t learn until the first or second grade. With this being said, I wonder where the fire service will be in the next 10 to 20 years? We have all heard the terms Brotherhood and Tradition since we have joined the fire service. To some these are just words spoken during new hire orientation, to others they are a matter of pride and a way of life. In the past when people left the military, they joined the local Fire Department. It was a good fit for them, the sense of brotherhood, tradition, and the willingness to serve others has roots in the military as well as the fire service. Now to the probie, these guys are a product of the computer age, generation X, and for the most part pretty intelligent. A lot of them do not understand the “old ways”. I’m not saying that the old ways were better; they used to never wear SCBA. But the old traditions of the fire service and the sense of brotherhood need to carry on. It is up to us, the veterans, to make sure the new guys learn this.

We have all watched the series “Band of Brothers”, they were a true brotherhood formed in training and forged in combat. They performed above and beyond what was required of them because they knew that their brother’s life was at stake. They could not afford to make mistakes. They depended on each other. Even after it was all over, they continued to be a tight knit unit. Brotherhood is much the same in the fire service but I feel that it is losing some of its luster. I hear the word brotherhood used only when it’s convenient or in some way benefits the speaker. Many of us rarely, if ever, think of our coworkers after we have completed our shift. There is too much going on, “I have to go to my other job”, or “I have something to do with my family”. There is nothing wrong with either statement, but is the Fire Department not part of your family? And Lord knows that we don’t make enough money, remember the earlier statement? What kind of example does this set for the young firefighter? What kind of example do you set for the young firefighter?

It is very hard not to be influenced by the negativity of those who have been jaded in some way. I was very lucky when I started, as a probie I served under a very good shift commander, I looked up to him and he helped mold me into what I am today. Also, under the guidance of good fire officers and senior firefighters, I learned why this is the greatest job in the world. I learned quickly what brotherhood was all about. Coming onto the job I didn’t know anyone, I came from a small town and a rural volunteer fire department and I was very proud to be a part of a “real” fire department. My third shift here my mother fell prey to the cancer in her body and the guys at my station went above and beyond to help me, someone they had just met, cope with a very difficult time. Talk about brotherhood. Next, I would go off to rookie school where I earned the “Outstanding Rookie” award. This is also where I met a person that would show me the kind of firefighter that I wanted to be and how to accomplish this task… never stop learning! Later, I would become reacquainted with an old friend. He was the new man and I tried my best to show him the ropes, I think I learned as much from him as he did from me. Then we experienced the pride of being a “Truckie”. I am very proud to call these men my “brothers”, I know that on or off duty I can count on them and that they can count on me… this is Brotherhood.

There are many in the fire service that once they are out of rookie school fail to continue their education, this is a very bad mistake. The fires we fight are changing and the tactics we use have to change also. The frequency of structure fires is diminishing due to the newer modern construction methods, but the fires are hotter and the atmosphere is more dangerous than ever. We must train on the fire we will face in the future not on those in the past. The mission we are called to perform is changing too, Technical Rescue and Hazardous Materials; these are areas that we can’t “master” on the job. They are “low frequency high risk” activities that we must train and be ready for as well as EMS and “routine” calls. The days of “we just fight fire” are over. Some times I receive criticism over relating this department to FDNY, but don’t you think there is a good reason behind how they operate? Company Officers, it is your job to make sure your crew is ready. Be it an Engine, Truck, or Rescue Company be sure that the crew knows their job. If they don’t perform as expected… help them out, don’t knock them down. This is Brotherhood. If you are the best that you can be, it will help those around you to be the best also. The speed that is required to do our job is a by- product of efficiency. Efficiency comes from training and practice. Resist the urge to c*** back the recliner handle, get up and be productive. Even if it is setting around the kitchen table discussing how to fight a fire in your district or going over the equipment on your apparatus… do you and your crew know how all of your equipment works? The fire ground is not the place to find this out.

The next time you use the term “brother” remember this Bible verse: Man hath no greater love than this, to lay down his life for his brother. John 15:13

To me, Brotherhood means that my brother firefighter can count on me and I on him; teaching and encouraging the young brother to be better than I am; always saying “follow me” instead of “do as I say, not as I do”; spending time with my brothers and their families away from the job.

What does it mean to you?

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