Had something happen in our county that raised a few eyebrows and figured I would throw it out and see what the emotions are. Recently, a company in the area elected a 21-year-old chief. I had heard (nothing factual, just strictly hear-say) that some of the members had issues with this. Many of them, of course, being the older and more experienced members. I am not sure if they are upset about being outranked by a younger, less experienced individual or reasonably feel that he is incapable. Just curious to see what everyones opinion is on the situation.
I am a young officer myself. I was 21 when I was appointed to the fire sergeant position. I am confident in my abilities, both on scene and in station, as are the members under me. Our system is designed so the fire chief is elected in December and takes office in January (one year term). The chief then chooses his officers and presents them for approval of the company at the January meeting. The chief of course has his own opinions and courses that he feels an individual should have before being placed in the position. Of course, no chief would place anyone in an officer position if he/she were not comfortable being represented by this individual or having this individual making decisions be it on the fireground or in the station. I would hope that the general membership electing a chief, no matter how that particular stations system is designed, would abide by the same guidelines. I feel that as long as the individual has the knowledge (station workings, incident stabilization, personnel issues, etc.)and maturity and has demonstrated such, then age should not be an issue.
In my department there a quite a few of young officers (Capts & Lt's.) from ages 21-34 y/o. and we all do a great job, on a training, paperwork, and on calls. Yes they may not have the same experience that a guy has who has been around for 30+ years, but these guys still know what they're doing and do it well and are very efficient. Personally I would put the age situation aside as a whole and look at each individual separately that wants to move into an officer position, and see if they can fulfill the position they want. I do agree that all the certifications someone has does not necessarily make them a good person for the job, but it’s possible. A good officer will have both a good knowledge and experience of the fire dept.
In my department you have to be 21 years old to run for office and have a set standard of training you have to have to run. I just nominated a firefighter for first LT. in our election for officers for this year.
She just turned twenty one and has the training and she has a good head on her shoulders and I would not have nominated her if I did not think she could handle the job. I think that as for captain up threw chief I would like them to have more experience to take the positions.
I like how you and your Assistan Chief worked togther, My dad has gotten chief for our department for the past 2 years. Some of the younger guys didnt like it but what they didnt know is he had been chief of a neighboring department for about 6 years. Him as well as our 2 assistant chief's work togther all the time on calls. That included a bad structure fire we had a couple month ago, he was put in charge all 3 drop sites at the scene and him and our assistant chief worked togther to figure out which trucks dump where and where they would go to fill, i was along side him the whole time watching every move they made and i was glad i got to see how they worked. I learned so much in that night and by about an hour and a half into it they had me helping the with the drop site to. The one thing they had me doing the most was backing the tankers into the drop tanks. It was an experience i will never forget. Trying to back two tankers in at the same time isnt for the faint at heart. I realy enjoyed seeing them work toghter the way they did and i know i never would have learned half of what i did that night if i wasnt there,.
Experience is key. At 21 you just turned old enough to drive and operate the trucks, at least at my company that is. I feel a good officer should have time in on all aspects of the scene before they attempt to be the one running the scene. The maturity level is not the problem, because I have members that are 21 that are more mature than some members in their mid thirty to forties.
I am not against young members grabbing the bull by the horns and becoming an officer in fact I encourage them to go for it. With that in mind they must be prepared as a young officer to get questioned on their decision and to stand behind the decisions they make.
There are those leaders in the fire service who will tell you that, unless you have followed some formal path towards leadership, it isn't going to matter how old or young you are. They will tell you that leadership starts at the rank of firefighter and goes to the top. It is RANK that screws everything up!
To lead, you must instill respect in your people and they reciprocate.
If not; you're in for a long (or short) tenure.