Another Milestone for Willie and I at the Swoope VFC Annual Banquet

In our travels, Willie ( and I have talked about getting into speaking together. Over the past year, we have discussed it and began plotting our course. We realized that this isn’t something that would be a piece of cake, yet we were willing to get started. Months of dragging our feet while we were busy doing other things had us putting off the effort to getting started.

Willie and I with the SVFC

In short, our speaking would be “motivational” but we had only identified a brief outline of our core values Pride, Respect, Honor, Tradition, and Brotherhood. We identified these words as what we are about and they help in our motivation to be better firefighters and individuals. We placed them on the edge of our brotherhood chips.

Then two things happened. I attended Rick Lasky’s “Pride and Ownership” and a firefighter I didn’t know invited me to speak at a department I had never heard of.

Willie and I with the plaques the SVFC presented to us.

It took me a couple of weeks to ensure that my wife wouldn’t disown me for wanting to do speaking gig on my birthday and the course was set. I told the firefighter, Chris Botkin, that I would speak at the Swoope Volunteer Fire Company’s annual banquet with one stipulation…Willie would be speaking as well. Chris said we were welcome to come as a team.

Now we had to create some semblance of our thoughts in a matter of weeks. To be honest, due to our schedules, we did most of our outline and talking points on the way up the road last night. The notes and emails back and forth weren’t even used in the end. It was a matter of those core values. Don’t get me wrong, we had prepared several rough drafts of talking points, but we hadn’t collaborated our thoughts face to face. We were prepared except for the one thing we had no control over…would we be able to pull off speaking together.

This must have been ONE HELLUVA story!

This could be make it or break it to see if Willie and I can share the same stage and talk…and make sense. I am an optimist, so my thoughts were that we would get up there and everything would work itself out. Luckily, speaking several times over the past year had enabled me to learn how to get comfortable and not be nervous. I am not sure about Willie, but he did just fine.

The men and women of the Swoope Volunteer Fire Company were very warm and welcoming. We got to meet many of the members before dinner. After dinner, we enjoyed the awards and some words from their Deputy Chief.

After the awards, we did our thing. I think we did a great job. From the feedback we got, we did a decent job as well. I couldn’t have asked for a better venue for Willie and I to get started.

We talked about what we are passionate about…the job. Whether you are a volunteer or a career firefighter, we don’t really care. “The Job” as

They actually invited our wives...luckily our wives invited us!

we call it by default is what we do. It encompasses firefighting in a simplistic format that firefighters can understand. We shared our passion and explained how we remain passionate. We used examples of how we keep learning and moving forward. We were also able to use examples simply from what we saw that night. They get it! Don’t get me wrong, Willie and I have a lot of work to do to polish our material and delivery!

We will be able to expand on our speaking topics in the future. Until then, enjoy my musings on “Owning the Job” right here on The Fire Critic.

To be honest, we owe a lot to the Swoope VFC. They made us feel welcome, they treated us like one of their own, and they were more than hospitable.

Willie and I with Swoope's Deputy Chief Kevin Wilkes.

What a great group of firefighters they have at Swoope. The department was incorporated in 1980 after being started about a year prior. They are just one of the many departments located in Augusta County, Virginia. I got to meet other members of departments from the area including the Fire Chief of the City of Staunton and the former Fire Chief of Augusta County. As a matter of fact, one of Roanoke’s own is now the Deputy Chief of Augusta County. Mike Armstrong retired from Roanoke just this past month and began in Augusta County. I worked for Mike when he first made Captain. I wish him the best in Augusta.

Needless to say, the event was a huge success for the SVFC. I foresee great things for the department in the future. They have made significant improvements in the past several years including just recently adding storage racks for their gear at the station.

They get Pride, Respect, Honor, Tradition, and Brotherhood. And, if this whole speaking gig works out for Willie and I, they can say they popped our cherry!

We are proud to call them Brothers!

The Swoope VFC Annual Banquet Video is below!





It was my birthday. They got me a cake!

Chris Botkin and I. Chris is the one who got Willie and I to speak.