When I became a Lieutenant I was immediately assigned a mentor to assist me during my probationary period, which has become a standard practice in our department. My mentor was the Captain of the Training Division. My mentor asked me to go to lunch one day, and during our conversation he asked if I would be willing to be assigned to the training division to instruct the new recruit academy for approximately 10 weeks. At that point I had a choice to make; stay with the crew I had worked with and developed continuity, or leave them and go to this unknown and unfamiliar role of teaching and coaching new recruits. It was a hard decision but I chose to help teach the new recruits.
Training new fire recruits is a special assignment for personnel. It allows new recruits the opportunity to learn from certified and veteran instructors that will help teach firefighting, EMT, HazMat and other special team skills. The fire service skills taught will lay the foundation for learning that will be utilized for the betterment of everyone involved. Here are four reasons why being a Training Officer at your department’s training academy will be good for your department, the recruits, the community and you.
1 -Teaching Skills Will Make You a Stronger Firefighter
When you immerse yourself in teaching firefighting you will also gain knowledge, skills, and abilities. As you teach techniques to new recruits, you naturally learn those techniques as well. As an instructor, hands on training helps build muscle memory that is beneficial to ensuring success on the fireground and in the classroom. When you learn and develop new skills in the training division you can take those skills back to the fire house and train your crew and colleagues in the field.
When you are surrounded by strong fire and EMS instructors, you have an opportunity to learn from them and become stronger, as well. It is said that, “iron sharpens iron.” In the training academy not only will you teach recruits, hopefully you will learn new skills and knowledge from your fellow instructors. Perhaps they are specialists in a certain area such as forcible entry, apparatus pumping, search & rescue or EMS. Perhaps they have had field experiences that can be passed on not only to the new recruits but to you as a new instructor as well. Being surrounded by other fire instructors allows you to benefit from their experiences, rather than just your own.
3- Being Around New Recruits Will Rejuvenate You and Make Them Better Firefighters
Do you remember when you first started in the fire service? You were probably excited, eager to learn and willing to serve. Being around the new recruits and their eagerness and positive energy will in turn give you that same positive energy with which to teach them. The spark they carry is contagious. These recruits are the future of your department and their success (or failure) will be in part due to the instruction and coaching they are receiving from you and the other instructors. The recruit academy is a formulative time in their fire service career. As new recruits, it is imperative that they hear positive feedback as well as constructive criticism from seasoned instructors during the fire academy. As an instructor, your enthusiasm can help set the tone that helps a recruit learn important skills and establish a strong foundation to build their fire service career.
4- Being an Instructor Develops Your Career and Helps Your Department
Accepting an assignment to the training division can help the department and often your own career. As a veteran firefighter it is easy to become stagnate by only being in the field. We all need the opportunity to recharge our batteries and sharpen our tools, and being assigned to the training division takes you out of your comfort zone to do that. Further, your superiors may take notice of your willingness to serve the department in this capacity. This may assist you in gaining a desired promotional opportunity or assignment in the future. In addition, your colleagues and co-workers will take notice of your desire to serve in this capacity as well. Your role modeling may inspire others to accept an assignment to the training division in future recruit classes, which in turn benefits the department as well. Finally, helping new recruits become better firefighters not only makes a stronger department, it helps build a safer community.
In conclusion, being assigned to the training division is an important responsibility. It is an honor to train the future members of your department. The responsibility to provide knowledge, skills and coaching cannot be overlooked. Don’t be deterred if the work schedule and pay grade is different. The assignment to the training division maybe temporary but the payoffs can last a lifetime for the recruits, the department, your own career, and the community you serve.