For those of us who have been around this business for a while, it can be easy at times to look at the rookies and wonder why they don’t do it like the way we did when we were coming up. This, being a very broad statement, is nothing new to the old guys thinking they do it better than the young guys (at least in their minds) for each generation that comes through. Technical rescues, an EMS patient, or attacking fires can be accomplished in a multitude of ways and still yield the same outcome. The old guy/young guy clash in these areas is commonplace and can be worked out through communication and continued training. But what about the rookies that don’t don’t get “it” when it comes to the firehouse stuff? I am one of the old guys, but still progressive and on top of things in the fire service. But, what I don’t like to see is new firefighters not paying their dues. Don’t start thinking I’m really old school and expect the rookie to do all the crap work, clean my dishes for me, and eat at a different table. Thats not how I roll. These rookies have value and deserve respect as people. They have past experiences, training, education, unique approaches to problem solving, and special skills. Unfortunately what they quite often have, too, is a feeling of being too comfortable a little too quickly (entitled). These people don’t get it. Paying their dues is to be the first one working and the last one to stop, to be the first to jump in and help out, to take the initiative and clean the whatchamacallit that has been neglected for a while, to pick up the piece of trash on the floor that 4 other people walked by. In a nutshell, these people need to act like they want to be here and impress everyone around them. Now, I can’t say all new people act like they are entitled. That statement just wouldn’t be true. But, there are plenty of people in this “entitled” category that just don’t get it and don’t know their place as a rookie. Is it their fault? No. It’s yours and mine. If we allow the feeling of entitlement in them, they will think everything is the way it should be. But, if we set expectations early on then follow through consistently with those expectations then the rookie will have no question about those unwritten job descriptions of being a rookie firefighter. Earning their way, like a lot of us did, brings added value to a firefighter in the long run. Give them respect as people and set their expectations a rookies. Then they better do the same with the generation behind them.
By Captain Paul Strong
Valley Regional Fire Authority in King County (WA)