I'm full time on a combination department and as far as I am concerned a Firefighter is a Firefighter. The key to being respected is training. If your department has a good quality training program you will perform better on calls and other departments will take notice. You don't need alot of cash, make your own props etc. If you show up looking like the Jimmy Joe Jim Bob fire department thats how you be precieved. Look sharp, walk tall, and learn your vocation and the respect will come.
I am on three departments; the first is an all volunteer department, the second a combination paid and volunteer department and a two week on to week off paid department. When I first joined the volunteer department we where looked down on by the neighboring department to which we have a mutual aid agreement. There mind set was that to be a “professional fire fighter you had to be paid”! As we know this is not so. That being said, we had to prove are department was professional and although there are still some old dogs who feel that we are not professional, their fire fighters train with us and know we are as professional as they are! So continue to train learn and be the best you can be. That being said there are some volunteer departments that do not train and do have a tendency to give us a bad name, and there are some small paid departments that don’t train and don’t look professional they just aren’t under the microscope like volunteers. But like the “T” shirt says “You can’t make me kick ash I’m a volunteer”! Keep your chin up brother!!