This one has been brewing for years, and I think it is time to get it out in the open for everyone to share. I really struggle with this topic and it creates a lot of frustration for me to try and comprehend that this is something we are even talking about. Lets just start it out bluntly.
If you’re already set in your ways, and have long ago decided that not only are you going to just simply gather a paycheck but at the same time hold a deep never ending grudge for the guys that are trying to move forward and make this job better, then go ahead, hold on to that mediocre mentality, sit back for the ride and finish your career in that state, but by all means KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!
I am truly sick of new, young, great minds on this job coming to me discouraged because these people have decided to demotivate them and talk trash about myself, my crew and everything we believe in. You know who you are, and I hope you sit back for a second and realize that you are mentally poisoning the youth and future of our job. It is easier for you to verbally bring us down to new guys (because they won’t talk back) then it is to step up and bring your own crew to the front and raise the bar. This is criminal, do you know how big of an impact you have on these guys that are just trying to do the right thing and work hard. They are at a point in their career where they are just looking for guidance on how to do their job right, and trying to figure out what that really means. The good ones are attracted to places where they have mentors that will actually teach them, but then you try and spin us off as “those guys”, and proceed to describe to them every single way that I will ruin their career if they come around me. That is garbage.
We have a great bunch of people that have come on our job in the last few years, some of the best new guys that I have ever had come through our firehouse and other great ones I didn’t get to work with. Hungry, motivated, self driven, and ready to get better everyday. They are blowing the old expectations of what it meant to be a good new guy out of the water. When they finish their probation and move on to their own firehouse I watch with great satisfaction as these new guys start making an impact on their own with their highly motivated mentality of holding themselves to a standard of pursuing mastery of their craft. At the end of the day, my only goal for them as they rotate through our firehouse, is to mentor and teach them the way I would want to be taught.
If we hold up on our end of the deal of what it means to be mentors, then we will reap the rewards across the entire job as that mentality slowly moves around the city. However, as I have learned first hand, be prepared to put yourself out there and take a beating from a group of people that will fight this type of energy everyday of your career.
Here’s some examples of the mental poison that is being put into these young motivated minds by others who are threatened by what we are teaching. They tell these guys to be very careful at my firehouse and never let yourself become one of “those guys”. They will say that it’s an easy thing to get sucked into down there and you will see in the long run it is a waste of your time and energy. They will make accusations that we only care about fires but never focus on any other aspect of our job. They will try to convince them that it is all shallow egos, cockiness, and bravado. They will even go as far as to tell these guys that they are training too much and that they will never make it through a career if they don’t take it easy. The list goes on of a hundred different examples that are being used in an attempt to scare them (the new guys) away from ever “being a part of that”.
Let me tell you what being “a part of that” is. Expectations are high, you come to work everyday knowing full well it could be the day where we need you at your best. You check your truck out in the morning like it’s actually your job. That doesn’t mean a walk around the truck, that means halyards are dressed and tied around only one rung. It means batteries are fresh on tools and blades have been replaced. It means running your hands down the chains on the saw to make sure they are sharp enough to grab your skin so you know they are fresh. It means the power heads/saws are getting run everyday. If lines are sloppy they are pulled and re loaded, yes, even in the winter or on a Sunday (what a concept). That is how important our apparatus is to us.
It means training comes first. If your priorities aren’t regularly based around quality company training, I can assure you nothing else will replace it. No amount of drawing on a whiteboard, or talking about hose lays at the tailboard will replace actually doing it. Your email management is not what makes you a good officer! We need leaders who are willing to get dirty and be the first one to step up at the next drill. If you are leading an engine company with one of these new guys on it right now and it has been more than a few shifts since you pulled a line, shame on you. You are verbally telling them how wrong we are, but your inaction at your own firehouse is sending a far stronger message to them. I have noticed a common denominator to the trash talking over the years. The more frequently you talk down about us, directly correlates with how infrequently you teach your new guy hose management.
Early on in my career, I was surprised how you almost had to feel bad for feeling this way about the job, I had plenty of times were that atmosphere made it feel like you were in the wrong and almost as if you should apologize for being at a certain firehouse. I got the same talks from guys telling me not to be a part of that, to choose my battles (and that this was not one to be involved in), I was that new guy receiving the same demotivating talks that the current ones are still hearing.
Company Pride does not have to equal unchecked Egos and cockiness. Can they go together sometimes? Sure they can. But 99% of this negative light that is brought on about my firehouse is created outside of it. I am not sure if it is insecurities about their own companies performance, or if they feel bad about the time spent in the lounge chairs while we are out training. But something makes them feel as if they need to discredit everything about us. When you have a group of guys that want to build a crew and their common goal is to be the best they can possibly be, company pride and espirit de corp will always be present. When another fire company does not have this common goal, does not believe in company pride, and sees training as more of a bother, then clearly it doesn’t take a genius to see why they are offended by a highly motivated crew with strong company pride.
We understand that this high energy mentality that is starting to gain traction with our youth is intimidating. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication to training your new guy, and an all around commitment to raise the bar on your own performance. I am not sorry that we are choosing the hard way, because it is the right way. For those of you who truly believe in this mental poison you are spreading among our youth, keep it to yourselves. If you feel you have to talk to someone about it, I honestly welcome a phone call from you any day I am on shift. I will always have a discussion about this topic, but I will always ask you one question. Can you tell your Chief word for word these beliefs that you are so quick to tell to the new guys? Because I can tell him mine, and I stand behind every word.
For the young guys that are working hard and trying to be masters of their craft….Keep on going, you are doing the right thing and we will always stand behind you. The right way is rarely the easiest way, and at the end of the day it is pretty clear who’s who.