A recent Twitter skirmish erupted over the posting of a photograph of an engine hosebed that was standing tall and clearly ready. The photo was not posted by the company that had made the hosebed look so good; rather, it was a visitor who was trying to compliment the company and department for being ready. Ready for what, you ask? Immediately, the Internet pundits launched into an all-out debate, trying to answer that question. Comments such as, “Those guys have clearly never been to a fire,” and “Obviously, that hose never comes off the rig, unlike the six or seven times a day we are laying lines,” and “I wonder how many trophies they won with that bed” filled the Twitter-sphere. On the other side, there were defenders who took the time to compliment the company on taking pride in their rig. Luckily, some other shiny pebble popped up and participants quickly moved on to another subject before things got too ugly, but it highlighted one immutable truth in the fire service: There will always be individuals trolling around in the shadows waiting to criticize another member of our own family.
On His Own
Taking pride in something requires effort. I have always been amazed that those who have the very least seem to care the most about what they do have. In the early ’90s, I was honored to be part of a team of instructors teaching an engine company operations class in upstate Pennsylvania. A firefighter named Ritchie Bohan would bring the Nanticoke Engine #2 (a late 1970s era Hahn) to the class in support of the program. This engine was a war wagon with more stuff bungee-corded to it than the mobile hardware store in a third-world country. But … it was his. He didn’t own it - the department did - except on the days he was working where he took care of that engine as if he had bought it with his own money. When the class was over, Bohan would pull all the hose off the engine that had been loaded and deployed repeatedly and put it back on to meet his own personal standards. When he was done, the engine was ready to the same exacting specifications as the one in the recent photo. The engine was not pretty, but it was set up to be combat ready. Why did he spend so much time making sure it was ready? Because the total staffing on the engine was one - him. To be able to do his job, he needed everything on the engine to be perfect. “If the hose goes on perfectly,” Bohan would say, “it will come off perfectly.”
Pride is not driven by economics; it is driven by something deep within an individual. In the fire service, members gravitate toward leaders who portray this. Pride is not boastful. It does not criticize. Pride does not seek to make oneself look good at the expense of making others look bad. Pride is reflected in the way a hosebed looks in the same way that a scalpel looks in the hand of a surgeon. Does the fact that the scalpel is used 15 times in the course of a day of battlefield surgery mean that it should be rusty and dull and covered in the blood of multiple victims?
Never allow the indifference or callousness of others dictate your preparedness to do your job. There will always be critics - always. In everything that you do, let your actions speak for themselves. They will echo long after you are gone.