18 years ago today….I began recruit school with my fire department. I had just moved to town a week prior, was barely 22, and didn’t realize how much I didn’t know. Everything in my life was changing. It was welcomed change, and as the next 18 years would play out it would become my life, my story, my choices which would get me to where I am today. At the time, I was dating the woman who would become my wife. Much of my career and all of my life since that day have become our lives together…plus we added two children to the mix.
I’m not sure when I became one of the “older” guys, I still don’t feel like it. Luckily for me, I don’t look it either.
Over the years, I have worked at stations 9, 13, 10, 8, and 3. All but 6 months have been spent in the NW quadrant of my city. There is something to be said about working in an area so long…it has everything to do with knowing the streets, businesses, and even the frequent flyers.
Not everyone who began class 15 on March 1, 1999 remained employed with my department. Most of those who left did so by choice. Some even moved on to other departments. Some left and came back. All in all, there is much respect between the ones of us who stayed. Hell, we even turned out to be pretty decent firefighters and officers.
Without dragging this out too long…It has been a blast. I wouldn’t change a thing. No one ever said it would be easy, but we can try to ensure we are having fun doing it!
Here is a quick list of things that I might tell my rookie self to do during my career if I bumped into that guy on his first day. (Some of which I did and am happy for it).
- Learn to cook if you don’t know how.
- Find a mentor, someone you look up to, and ask them for advice throughout your career.
- Once you have years under your belt, look to mentor the new guys.
- Focus on your family. Spend time being a great parent and spouse.
- Don’t invest money on frivolous things. Focus on the necessities.
- Take classes anywhere and everywhere on all different topics.
- Don’t let bad leaders/officers rub off on you.
- Save money for rainy days, vacations, and retirement.
- Stand up for yourself. There may be no one else there to stand up for you.
- Do the right thing. Even if it is the hardest thing to do.
- Treat everyone how you would want to be treated.
- Treat every patient like they were your parents.
- Laugh as much as possible.
- Exercise, and remain in decent physical health.
- Decrease exposure to carcinogens whenever possible.
- Always respect the rank.
- Never assume anything.
- Listen always, be heard when necessary.
- Stay true to yourself, loyal to your family, and devout in your profession.
- Always offer any visitor to the firehouse a tour and a cup of coffee.
- Respect retirees.
Below is a photo taken on the final burn of recruit school 15.