Your dream of being a firefighter has come to fruition and you find yourself on a fire department. You’ve worked hard, taken many classes, read countless articles, and tried all you can to be the best firefighter that you can be…and now in the blink of an eye your time has come to be a leader in your department. It doesn’t matter if your “riding the seat” on a rig, in charge of a shift, or you find yourself with 5 bugles on your shirt collar, you have now officially become “da man” or “da woman”.
Is it what you thought it would be like? Are you fair in your decisions? Are you finding that previous friendships have now become strained because you’re now the boss? Are you leading by example or do you subscribe to the theory “it’s my job to see it gets done” crap? In case no one’s ever told you this before, with the title of chief, captain, lieutenant, or any other of the multitude of officer titles that there are across this nation, comes a huge responsibility to not only yourself, but to the members that you will now be commanding.
An officer has the responsibility to lead whether it’s at the firehouse, on the training ground, on the incident scene, and yes, even when you’re off duty, you’re still “the man”. You should expect the best out of your crew just as they should expect the best out of you. Lead them by your actions and not just your words. In the long run, this will pay dividends, trust me. Never forget that although firefighters are deemed “superheroes”, they are still human beings whose lives may or may not be 100% firefighting, 100% of the time. They may have ongoing family issues, financial strains, or maybe they have become disenfranchised for some reason with the system. This does not make them bad firefighters, it makes them human. Be there for them, listen to them, and give advice when the time is right.
If you were to follow me on a shift at my station you would have no idea, most of the time, that I was a company officer. I like to keep things “light-hearted” at the station and am the first to laugh at myself (and trust me, it happens often). But don’t get me wrong, my crew knows their duties, their responsibilities for day to day operations, and what is expected of them. I never had to” go behind them” to make sure they are doing their job, they just do it. It’s on the incident scene where your leadership skills will be measured the most. You must make splint second decisions, at times, that will most likely set the stage for the entire incident.
Yep, you’re that important.
Whether it’s an EMS scene, or ‘laying cotton” on the road, your crew will look to you for direction, so be ready to give some.
But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off.” U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore (We Were Soldiers)
Be that type of leader, and trust me when I say that your crew, your community in which you’ve been given the duty to protect, and your legacy will thank you for it in then end.
Train hard, laugh hard, and work hard my friends.
After all, we’re firefighters just “livin’ the dream.”