After being in the fire service for 10 years, I have come to appreciate a very valuable truth: every brother and sister — no matter how new or how tenured — has something to offer that will strengthen the brotherhood. Every firefighter possesses a unique background that is composed of unique experiences. In addition, each member has their own distinct blend of gifts, talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities. The culmination of these elements has molded them into the firefighter that they are today. Just as no two fires are exactly alike, no two firefighters are exactly alike.
Due to the inherent nature of our para-military occupational structure, firefighters are typically cast from a single mold. Unfortunately, independent thinking is seldom encouraged; this is especially evident in recruit school, where firefighters are taught to think and do alike. When we start as probationary firefighters, we are instructed to listen, learn, and “not speak unless spoken to.”
However, an interesting phenomenon occurs after a couple of years on the job. Once the “probie” has proven themselves to be a reliable and competent firefighter, his crew’s respect and admiration grow proportionately. As a result, confidence grows and his true character start to emerge. With this new-found freedom, the firefighter starts to share his unique perspective and skill set with his brethren. Consequently, his crew gains a new and valuable perspective which improves the company’s effectiveness and efficiency.
Strong firefighters yield strong companies. Strong companies yield strong battalions. Strong battalions yield strong fire departments. Strong fire departments yield a stronger brotherhood.
The book of Proverbs gives the following wisdom: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) The phrase “iron sharpens iron” refers to two swords simultaneously honing and sharpening their edges against each other. Without the other, the blades would stay dull and the process of cutting would be an arduous task. In the fire service, this metaphor could not be any more appropriate. Since every firefighter is unique in their own gifts, talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities, they can make a unique contribution to the brotherhood.
The takeaway is simple, yet profound: the strength and knowledge of the brotherhood will grow when we choose to share what we know. Whether you believe it or not, every individual has something to offer — be it big, be it small, it is not inconsequential by any means. To the greenest probie who only has six months on the job: You have something to offer. To the “saltiest” senior firefighter: The value of your experience and wisdom is priceless — use both to shape the next generation. Firefighter, by choosing to sharpen and be sharpened by those around you, the brotherhood will be stronger, smarter, and safer.
Photos courtesy of dollarphotoclub.com.