I recently watched the movie “300” and find it to be inspiring and historically interesting. I have seen it maybe three or four times and this most recent viewing it made me stop and think. These Spartans were a proud, honorable and highly trained group of men and society. It was an honor to die protecting Sparta.
Sound familiar? The fire service should be a place that we are proud, honorable and in trying to save a life, we are revered for giving our lives to save another. At least that is the way it used to be. I got to thinking: “Is this still the case?”
What to do we do while we are at work? What do we do on our time off? How do we present our profession to others? How do we honor and respect our traditions and past? All of these questions were rattling around in my head.
I have heard people in our own profession mock some of these questions, not necessarily directly, but the way they act and present themselves as part of the fire service. They demean new ideas and traditions alike. They don’t like training or reading the trade journals. These people would rather become an expert in anything else but fighting fire!
We all have them in our organizations and we will never completely get rid of them. The problem is that we have officers with this attitude and it gets passed down to the new people as a way of life. We have to stop this and keep that poison away from the new folks. We have a responsibility to keep the fire alive in the fire service. How do we do this?
Our attitude everyday has to be about pride, honor and integrity! (Thanks, Chief Lasky!) We have to pass on why we do the things we do and why we don’t do other things, like the things that get us needlessly killed and injured. We are our brother’s keeper and we must take that responsibility seriously. The public is our customer and if they want a fire truck at a block party, there should be one there. When someone is denigrating the fire service or a fire service related topic, they should be stopped in their tracks. Pride, honor and integrity, it matters.
Officers have to create an environment and culture that encourages ideas and improvement of their people. Don’t isolate and bring them down. Raise the level of performance by training regularly and discussing new trends. Read the trade journals and instill this as a regular part of the day for the new people. They will think that this is how everyday is and it will live on and get passed down to the next generation. Give your people every opportunity to succeed.
As people who love the fire service, some make it a job and others make it their life. I say make it both, not at the expense of family or other important parts of your life, but it should be high on the list. I maintain that the fire service is a way of life, not an occupation or job. We have jobs to do to maintain our way of life, but not just for the sake of doing it. Too many before us have made the ultimate sacrifice for others to live and we should not reduce what they did as just part of the job, it was a way of their life; to give selflessly and to put others first.
Make sure that when you train and come to work everyday you are doing everything you can to instill pride. Make sure you are instilling honor in your crews and peers. Make sure you are instilling and promoting integrity. Everyday. Every shift.
Let’s train to be Spartans. Spartans of the fire service, valuing the good of the whole, not of individuals. Valuing pride, honor and integrity.