Archive for the ‘7. Everything Else’ category

To Be A Fraction Of This Man

07/29/2012

June 6th 2012, Sixty eight years after Operation Overlord takes place on the beaches of Normandy, the day the United States lead the worlds greatest invasion. A defining moment for the Greatest Generation.

What did I do that day? I escorted a man named Frank Royal to an interview with the local news media. This interview was being held at a local operation that rebuilds and restores World War 2 fighters and bombers back to original flying condition. The local news wanted to interview my Grandfather about his memories of combat in World War 2 on the anniversary of D-Day.

The stories he spoke of during this interview were not foreign to me, I have heard many of them and have been lucky enough to spend my entire life in the same city as my Grandfather, so needless to say I have spent good amount of time over the years listening to recollections of his career. Today was unique though, I was fascinated watching my Grandfather sit next to a cockpit of a recovered P38 Lighting (one that he likely flew) and answer questions with such poise and confidence that even the news reporter was impressed by the quality of his memory and detail.

Col. Frank Royal, USAF, 39th Fighter Squadron
Pacific Theater of World War 2.

That title alone tells a story, we are talking about the Greatest Generation here and I am lucky enough to not only be learning lessons from this generation, but doing it first hand. My Grandfather is 97 years old, he still lives on his own and can speak about details from 70 years ago better than I can recall what I did last week. He has lived through World War 1, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, World War 2, Korean War, and every other major conflict and piece of American History up to 9-11 and beyond. That is a lifetime of wisdom and experience obtained through some of the most challenging times in this countries history. His generation provided the grunt work that built this nation.

To tell his story I would have to write an entire book, that is not the intentions of this article however. I wanted to express some of the life lessons I have learned from this generation and how it should apply to the younger generation of firefighters coming onto this job today. Here is a very brief rundown of his story and some of the other members of the Greatest Generation he flew with.

Before America began to fight in World War 2, Frank Royal was pre-med, setting himself up to be a Doctor and begin his career. He walked away from this dream to pursue another. In his words, he knew America was going to end up in this war and he wanted to set himself up in the Army Air Corp before they actually engaged. This would allow him time to become a fighter pilot and obviously be involved in the fight when the time came. He joined the Army Air Corps, and began his road of becoming a pilot. Actions like this define dedication to duty, and your country. To give up a career that you know will be stable and financially reward you for rest of your life, to ensure you will make it into the Army Air Corp in time to be part of the initial fight is a shining example of bravery without even seeing combat yet. This is selfless dedication to others, which is something that any firefighter should know something about.

My grandfather was assigned to the 39th Fighter Squadron, a group of fighter pilots that were involved very early in the war. He was stationed at Selfridge Field Michigan with his group of fighter pilots. They were flying the P39 Airacobras and were one of the few combat ready fighter squadrons in the nation.

Here is the 39th line up on the flight line in Selfridge Michigan, My grandfather is the third man in from the left. This is where they were stationed when they got the word that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. America had now entered the war and they were activated to fly to Bellingham Washington to defend and patrol Americas coastline from the Japanese, but were quickly sent to the Pacific to defend Austrailia, and were among the earliest fighter squadrons sent into combat. This is where it all happened, victories, losses, heroes and flying aces.

That is a small part of the squadrons history, but what really interests me is the men who made this history. These men were sent into combat out gunned, out numbered and very under equipped with the capabilities of their planes. The P-39s were slower, could not fly above the Japanese and could not outmaneuver them. However its what they had, and they had a job to do. When my grandfather was asked about the lacking planes compared to the more advanced planes that would be delivered to them shortly and how this would effect them fighting the more advanced Japanese fighters he responded with.

“We were completely convinced that we were the best fighter pilots in all of the world, just show us the go button and we will take care of the rest”

They wanted to do their job, and that was it. They had a mission and it didn’t matter what kind of equipment they had or if the enemy was better equipped, they had a job to do and they thoroughly believed that they were the toughest group of fighters that would be in the air.  A very simple but heroic thought process. Its a thought process with no baggage attached, it is simple determination without worrying about the things that do not matter, they had there priorities straight and believed in a common mission.

My grandfather flew with some of the greatest fighter pilots of World War 2, men whose names will live on long after you and I because of what they did for this country. Take a minute someday and look up guys like Richard Bong, “Aces of Aces” he had 40 confirmed kills in air to air dog fights. His first assignment was with my Grandfather as his commanding officer. How about a guy like Charlie (Sully) Sullivan, after a dogfight caused him to crash land his plane, he survived in the jungle, was taken prisoner by locals,  won a shootout with the hostile natives and walked for 30 days surviving only off of the contents of his pockets. When rescued by the Aussies, the plane taking him back crash landed, which he also survived. He finally made it home and then went on to finish a 30 year career in the military.   Tom Lynch was a well known ace with 20 confirmed kills and a good friend of my Grandfathers. This man was a decorated pilot who was known as one of the best fighter pilots and leaders in the Pacific, he was killed in action by anti aircraft fire during a mission. These men hold a proud honor that speaks to their efficiency in the air. They were the first squadron of fighter pilots in WWII to achieve 100 enemy kills and had over 20 Aces just in the 39th.  These are men of great character.

Good men have died so others may live. This generation of men knew the meaning of hard work, selfless dedication, and a very real recognition and understanding that their life may be cut very short in the name of a bigger cause. They did this to defend our country and preserve our right to continue on living in a fashion of our own choosing. They didn’t go into battle with the hope of dying, in fact most probably feared it, however because of men like this, willing to push forward while over 400,000 of their fellow countrymen were killed, they created the most feared fighting force in the world and thrust America into a respected powerhouse.

When I think of the common problems faced in the American Fire Service and wonder how I can do my part to try and improve my small slice of the job, it automatically causes my mind to refer back to this generation. I take lessons that they learned along with the examples they set and apply them to my outlook on the job. Here is a few of the common arguments and problems that I feel the Greatest Generation has provided examples for as long as we are just willing to listen.

We discuss LODD frequently, which we should, I completely support the mission of killing less firefighters every year from preventable situations and make that my goal for every person that I ever have the pleasure to work with, that being said, we still must stress the centuries old mission of the fire service. We are a part of a very small group of people who have promised to protect our common man. We must train, prepare, use discipline and think, but do whatever it takes to protect our people and get the job done. This is not a position we should except if we are not willing to always make human life our priority and realize that we could be faced with great danger during this mission. It was done for you and I, selflessly, and we must carry on one of the greatest traditions known, service to others, for others, above ourselves. These men defined the meaning of that tradition.

Hard work and determination was what these men knew, it is how they lived their lives and what set the USA up for success. Many years before us the determination to work extremely hard is what built the foundations of this country. If we begin to settle for the easy way out we will surely see the results. I feel one of the only ways to truly honor what my Grandfather and these men did for us, is to show it in my work ethic. To continue on a legacy of willingly choosing the hard route when it is the right thing to do. You must have a desire for hard work, dirty work, and uncomfortable work. This is easy to find if you are willing and it is much easier to go to sleep at night knowing that you strive for an honest days work where you earn every penny of your check. Entitlement is an enemy that is growing, if we as a fire service stop respecting seniority, tradition, mentorship and strong work ethics, we begin to walk a line that could be difficult to cross back over. Don’t feel entitled to your pay check, rank,  position or your personal comforts, instead earn them. Because if you have not earned them, how can you fight for them?

Respect your fellow firefighters in the same way these men respected their fellow fighter pilots. Respect does not mean just being nice to each other, that is the easy form of respect. I don’t think you can just be a “nice guy” to show respect, because if you truly respect me than I will know I can count on you, that you will be reliable to perform your duties when I need you most. The nice guy on the ground does the other pilots no good in the air when he cannot be relied upon to perform his duties at high level. There was no room for that type of disrespect because the consequence was death. We should view respect in a similar fashion, make it mean something. Don’t always agree, but always respect your fellow firefighters views, their background, their families, their experience and their religion but just as importantly show them the respect of reliability, be someone that they can completely count on without hesitation.

These are a few of the many things that I strive to model myself after, I believe strongly in what my Grandfathers generation has done for us, I attempt to honor them through solid work ethic, and can only hope to one day show the type of wisdom, poise, respect and leadership the men like my Grandfather have earned the hard way.

-Ryan Royal

An Honest Look At Training.

07/08/2012

The days of dragging hose through a field, or doing buddy breathing drills standing in your station uniform should be over. We need a commitment to high quality training!! High quality training may cause you to sweat, it may be challenging, and it might make you feel uncomfortable.

Lets take a closer look at that sentence:

Sweating. When this isn’t a typical part of our day we might want to take a step back, look in the mirror and see why we are not sweating. Ask yourself, do I put off training in the morning because I am worried about sweating and getting dirty for the remainder of the day? If so also ask yourself, when I signed up for this great profession did I feel entitled to remaining clean and cool sitting in the AC?

Challenging. You want to know the fastest way to make your company lose interest in training? Take that sheet out that has the ten required engine company drills that you are tested on every year and never ever stray from it. Watch how much enthusiasm the guys will get in their eyes when you mention your going out for your weekend training next shift and they ask you “Can we try this other drill”, and your response is “Well it doesn’t have that on the sheet”? We must add a challenge to our drills and try to make them different, when a company is brought to the same parking lot every time they lay hose with the same objective, you have officially set them up for disaster. Before anyone jumps on me, let me say one thing. I am NOT discrediting the most basic engine company drills, in fact the complete opposite, I am saying we must take the absolute basics and train on them in a way that has practical value to it, instead of making it a wasted day of motion without meaning.

Uncomfortable. Oh boy does this one get awkward. You mean we are going to train on stuff that we are not completely comfortable with, you mean I have to get up there in front of my crew and try something that I may not be 100% at and possibly look bad in front of them? Absolutely. One of the biggest barriers that we are dealing with in this fire service today when it comes to training is people worried about looking bad in front of others. It is a gigantic barricade that prevents improvement and instead puts up this wall of fear that causes them to take a few steps back and hide, avoiding the drill all together, which consequently, makes them just a little bit worse then they were before they started the drill. The only way we will MAINTAIN our skills is by training on our basics, but take that one step further. The only way we will IMPROVE our skills is by training on topics that we are not fully comfortable with. This means overcoming the egos and the fear that makes people shy away and going full throttle at the chosen topic until we can not only get it right every time, but now we are so proficient in that skill that there is no way we are going to get it wrong. Going out and training on ropes everyday because you enjoy them and are comfortable with knots does not make you any better that night when you need to bang a ladder but have been avoiding the 24’ extension like its the plague. This is even more important as the officer, nothing makes the grunts question the officer more than seeing one avoid a drill all together or say, “I have done this before”‘ while standing back and watching the crew perform. 

Practical training on the basics makes a difference in firefighters careers! There is a tremendous amount of politics and extra fluff that we cannot control in our everyday walk through the fire service. However we have complete control of our company level training, and nothing makes more of a difference in someone’s future on this job then high quality training that is thought provoking and challenging.

Ok, here is where I tie it all together, because the last thing I want anyone thinking is that I am saying basic hose lays are lame, and that we should be doing some type of elitist, “I am better then you” training.

Focus on practical training with street value. Each time you set up a drill ask yourself what can I do to make this more realistic, how can I add practical teaching points to this, and then when we get this step right, how can I make it more challenging? Start with the basics, I mean the absolute basics, make sure the new guy knows how to stretch a hose from the pumper to the door and lay it our properly. Make sure they can properly flake it every time with speed and control. Then make sure they can do it with cars in the way, with different terrain, with railings and porches, etc. This is basic, but this is what I am talking about, when this step is skipped and all we practice on is dragging hose around without ever perfecting the stretch and layout, then we begin to miss things.

Ladders will not always be thrown on level ground, during the day with no overhead lines. Hose won’t be pulled through a building with no corners to manage while having perfect visibility. Search will not be done in a memorized concrete building without furniture and junk everywhere. Forcible entry won’t always happen with two people in the standing position without masks on. Victims won’t have built in handles on their chest and they definitely won’t tell you “only drag me to the window, because I don’t want you to take me down the ladder because it is difficult and may cause too much exertion”.

These are the basics, expand on them and don’t let the minimum standard for training be your bar, let this be the fire academies bar. If we think the academy was our training for the next 30 years and don’t ever raise the bar, this will cause us to become unsafe and complacent. Many times you may hear that we should not stray from the minimum in the name of safety, or that drills that are challenging are unsafe. Here is my humble opinion, when we avoid training on ladder work with rocky sloped terrain because it may be unsafe, we have just made the fireground that much more dangerous for us.

If you are someone that is committed to safety, I mean real safety with no lip service attached, then you will make a serious commitment to practical, consistent training on the basics of our trade. You will make sure yourself and the ones around you avoid complacency through challenging and uncomfortable training. Then you will bring everything you have learned to date on this job, and provide it to a new guy that comes through your station which sets them up with the tried and true fundamentals of our job. This is how you show your committed to safety, by doing it, not preaching it without action.

Mentorship is difficult, because it requires thought, time and energy. Mentorship is also hard to find sometimes and seems to be slowly dwindling. Here is my plea! Put down the game controller, put away your side business paperwork, log off the email for an hour and contribute to the tradition of passing along the right way to do things.

 “Let Mentorship Be Our Greatest Tradition”

-IRONS and LADDERS
Ryan Royal

Happy 4th of July…A long week

07/04/2012

Happy 4th of July to everyone, I have not posted on the website for some time now, but I have been regularly updating the Irons and Ladders Facebook page with what has been going on around here recently.
Please if you have not made it over there take a look at http://www.facebook.com/IRONSandLADDERS  We have some pretty incredible videos and pictures from the historic fire that just ravaged the west side of Colorado Springs. Thanks again, and don’t give up on this site, we promise there is more stuff in the works and when things calm down for a minute expect to see new articles. Thanks – IRONSandLADDERS

Manual Of Firemanship

03/21/2012

I came across this great handbook from 1945, it has been fascinating to read and to reassure myself as much as we have changed, our basics have stayed so much the same. I am going to make a few different posts detailing some of the chapters out of this book. Everything from our mission and responsibilities as a firefighter to what early day versions of “combat ready” apparatus looked like.

Here is the very first page, word for word,  out of book # 5 called Practical Firemanship

PRELIMINARY
“No two fires are alike,” is an old and very true Fire Service saying, and therefore technical knowledge must be backed up by intelligence and the ability to grasp the fundamentals of a situation, to initiate a plan of action and to improvise on the spur of the moment.
 
1. THE FIREMAN
The fireman must be physically fit, for work at a fire will almost always involve great physical exertion. He must be courageous and yet be calm, for on these qualities will depend his reactions in an emergency. He must be patient, for often he will need patience when dealing with persons whose property is involved or threatened by fire and who are in a state of considerable mental distress. He must have initiative and yet possess the will to keep going for long periods of times under adverse conditions. He must cultivate his powers of observation to the utmost and must also possess an enquiring mind. He must have a keen sense of discipline, for unless he himself is able to obey orders without question he cannot expect other to carry out his orders. Finally he must never forget that as a member of the Fire Service he is a servant of the public, and that it is to him that the public turns in an emergency. His duty may be summed upas, firstly to save lives, secondly, to prevent the destruction of property by fire and, thirdly, to render humanitarian services.
The fireman who wishes to progress in his profession should study every outbreak which he has the good fortune to attend and endeavor to learn something from it. Thus, after a few years, he will have built up a store of practical knowledge which will equip him for dealing with most of the problems which come his way.  
 

Wow, talk about hitting the nail on the head. I needed this, sometimes it feels like we have so many other responsibilities we need to be good at that all I see is people training on everything but our true core basics. This book does a better job breaking down what is important than I ever could. What is great about this paragraph is it covers some great characteristics, expectations, and mentality in an easy to understand way. I want to break down parts of it and put a more modern spin on what I believe they are saying. I’ll respond in blue.

PRELIMINARY

“No two fires are alike,” is an old and very true Fire Service saying, and therefore technical knowledge must be backed up by intelligence and the ability to grasp the fundamentals of a situation, to initiate a plan of action and to improvise on the spur of the moment.
It has obviously been around for a while, we have all heard it, “No two fires are alike”  and I like their spin on this. They make the point that if we expect that each fire can be handled by a set guidelines out of a book, or technical knowledge that has been read, we are in for a world of hurt. We must use our heads and common sense to come up with a solution to the problem and get the job done. Not only get the job done, but in times do it in a way that we have never seen or been trained on before using tools in a creative fashion. They are asking for people that can solve problems with what they have in hand. 

 1. THE FIREMAN

The fireman must be physically fit, for work at a fire will almost always involve great physical exertion.
Guys are not making this stuff up today, they are just improving on it and stressing its importance. 
He must be courageous and yet be calm, for on these qualities will depend his reactions in an emergency. 
 These are some of the best qualities you can find in a firefighter, think of some of the best you know and work around. Ill bet their calm, and to me one of the best ways to judge courage is how calm someone remains when things are real bad.
He must be patient, for often he will need patience when dealing with persons whose property is involved or threatened by fire and who are in a state of considerable mental distress. He must have initiative and yet possess the will to keep going for long periods of times under adverse conditions.
Patience and staying calm go very hand in hand. The second part is a very formal way of saying they should be tough and not whining about when it is their turn to go get water or leave the fire.
He must cultivate his powers of observation to the utmost and must also possess an enquiring mind.
Attention to detail and being able to recognize what is going on when you arrive instead of becoming tunneled in on the problem. Almost every modern day tool and tactic have come from those among us with enquiring minds and the will to make things better.
He must have a keen sense of discipline, for unless he himself is able to obey orders without question he cannot expect others to carry out his orders.
The greatest leaders I have ever worked for are comfortable enough in their own skills and confident enough in their choices that they can have the humility to let the people who work under them question and solve problems on our own, all while having a mutual understanding that when they do give an order we would follow it without hesitation.
Finally he must never forget that as a member of the Fire Service he is a servant of the public, and that it is to him that the public turns in an emergency. His duty may be summed up as, firstly to save lives, secondly, to prevent the destruction of property by fire and, thirdly, to render humanitarian services.
What a great line, they refer back to the bottom line that we are in a business of service to others. How about how they summed up our duty, we have heard that in about every fire text book on the market. However I like the way they word it here better than the modern day Life Safety, Incident Stabilization,  Property Conservation. It brings a more personal meaning to our mission.
The fireman who wishes to progress in his profession should study every outbreak which he has the good fortune to attend and endeavor to learn something from it. Thus, after a few years, he will have built up a store of practical knowledge which will equip him for dealing with most of the problems which come his way.  
This is one of my favorites, even in 1945 they are talking about the importance of the person who treats this as a trade and not as a day to sit and gather a paycheck. 25 years can be experience that is only half of its true potential if you did just the minimum to make it through. The true craftsman takes every possible opportunity that they can learn from and they apply to their next challenge. They are hard on themselves when something goes wrong, but then they take what they learned and apply it to the next fire. This is how you store practical knowledge, by messing up, and than making sure you can’t mess up in the same way again.

This is just the very first page of this book, I have found a lot of other topics and chapters that I will share on here over time. I always love to get back tot he basics.

 
 

Fire Engineering Radio Interview

02/22/2012

We were honored and happy to do an interview the other night on the Fire Engineering Radio Show. Three of the Irons and Ladders owners (Nick Chapel, Bryan Lynch, Ryan Royal)  were interviewed by P.J Norwood and Brian Brush who are both instructors from FDIC. They interviewed us on what Irons and Ladders is doing across the State of Colorado, how we started and some basic mentality questions that we believe in. It is recorded and if anyone is interested in getting a little better idea of who we are and what we believe in check us out.

We are the second half of the show and start around the 38 minute mark if you would like to fast forward.

Fire Engineering Radio Show Episode 215

Students of the Craft

01/19/2012

A defining moment in your career is the point that you feel you have enough experience and training to do your job well but you don’t settle for that. A characteristic of a good tradesman is the humility to realize how much more he needs to master and to understand it is going to take the entire remainder of his career to accomplish it. – Irons and Ladders

Sparky Truax Fundraiser Class

01/01/2012

This came together very quickly and is not very far out. Sign up today! We will be presenting a half day class on Forcible Entry Door Size Up. The other half of the day will be a Ventilation class presented by Brian Brush who runs Colorado Firefighter and contributes regularly to Fire Service Warrior.  100% of the money from this class will be donated to the family of Sparky Truax, a South Metro Firefighter who died only days before Christmas. Help us take care of his family like you would want your own taken care of. This is just a small part of the Brotherhood.

This will be held at South Metro Fires Training Center. February 1st, from 9 till 5. Register and information at the following links

 the2164foundation.org

Register here: The 2164 Foundation

Facebook Event Information here : Sparky Truax Family Fundraiser


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