Brotherhood and Much More in KZOO

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All photos by Matt Schimmel

This past weekend, Captain Wines and I traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan to speak with firefighters about Professional Wellness, Motivating Firefighters, Improving Morale, and a little bit about Social Media. Captain Wines wrote about our trip to KZOO and Detroit here.

Matt Schimmel, who took the pictures shared in this article, posed for a quick pic with us. Kevin apparently doesn't like being in photos...

Matt Schimmel, who took the pictures shared in this article, posed for a quick pic with us. Kevin apparently doesn’t like being in photos…

We were speaking at the Winter Seminar of the KZOO FOOLS (and on Facebook here) and the Kalamazoo County Fire Chief’s Training Committee. We are both going to be pissed if there ends up being a “Summer Seminar”, because it was cold and snowed about 6′ while we were there.

I first want to say that I apologize. I was not on top of my game. I always strive to be better each time I speak and I feel as though I was a little flat. Luckily for me, Captain Wines did not disappoint. He came through better than ever and made me feel good about what we were able to accomplish in Kalamazoo.

The Brew City FOOLS

The Brew City FOOLS

Firefighters from as far away as Milwaukee (Brew City FOOLS) made the trip. The Mitten State FOOLS were also in attendance. Apparently those Northerners know how to drive in that white cold mess.

We spoke a lot about mental health, the need for a cultural change in the fire service towards understanding mental health, and how it is ok to get help. Unfortunately, during our talk, we learned of a Milwaukee Firefighter who took his own life. 

When I say “What we were able to accomplish in Kalamazoo”, I mean what we were able to share AND what we were able to learn. It took a while…ok, it took A LONG TIME for me to grasp the “Paid On Call” system. I asked a few questions…and then I continued to ask A TON of questions. In the end, I think I understand it.

Special thanks to KZOO FOOLS President Kevin Thompson and Matthew Schimmel for taking time out of their weekend to ensure that Captain Wines and I had a blast. They were true hosts and we appreciate it. If our success was measured in laughter when we were around these guys, then it was a HUGE SUCCESS. We have known these guys for a while and they are a blast!

Chief Carl presented Willie with a gift of recognition for being a Paramedic "Back in the Day". Willie thinks I set him up...

Chief Karl Poenicke (Pavilion FD) presented Willie with a gift of recognition for being a Paramedic “Back in the Day”. Willie thinks I set him up…

What made the event even more special was that even with the blizzard we were in, 114 of the 125 firefighters who planned on attending were there. That says a lot about those Brothers…and their ability to drive in the snow. As a matter of fact, some of those Brothers who couldn’t make it were planning on driving in from Illinois.

Not to mention the fact that the original venue for the event was closed due to the weather…Luckily, Oshtemo Fire Chief Barnes opened the doors of the Oshtemo Township Hall and Fire Station #1 (link) to us. You couldn’t even tell that they only had a couple of hours to make the change and get everything set up. Talk about a class act.

Let me just say that those guys “get it”. It was obvious by the fact that they were there, in speaking with them, and in learning about them. We are accustomed to that. What we need is for them to go back to their firehouses and spread the message that we reiterated. We probably didn’t “teach” them much. As a matter of fact, we probably learned more than they did. We just told them a lot of what they already knew, and told them it was OK to go back and make a difference.

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After the seminar was over, we headed to the 2014 Brotherhood Bash. That was where the real fun began. We got to meet dozens of great Brothers from all around the area.

Check out photos from the Winter Seminar and Brotherhood Bash are here

The Brotherhood Bash was all about Brotherhood and fellowship. Special thanks to Jed for setting it up.  Those guys “get it”. The event was fun filled with a lot of great raffle prizes given away from companies like, Ride Backwards, Detroit Shields, Zahnen Companies donated The Pig5 Alarm Fire and Safety Equipment, and First Due Fire Supply.

Special thanks to Kevin, Matt, Jed, Chip, and many others who we met and had a blast with. I know it took a lot of work to pull off this event and I appreciate your dedication to your FOOLS, your FD’s, and your Brotherhood. It was an honor to meet you all and have the chance to speak with all of you.

The legion of Brothers at the FOOLS Brotherhood Bash

The legion of Brothers at the FOOLS Brotherhood Bash