Saturday, February 21, 2009

The real deal

"Let's go, let's go! Someone needs your help, move with a purpose!"

This will probably be a mantra circling my ears for the next few months. Today was our first full-day practical training, and while it was a lot of fun getting to play with the big toys, it was hard work. I can already tell I'm gonna be a little sore tomorrow.

All our previous classes have been held at the headquarters of the Fire District, but today in order to build crew solidarity, each one of the 4 crews in the recruit class got sent to a different county station to work with the big trucks and learn how to handle air tanks and hoses. Arriving at 8:00 AM, we all dumped our gear in the bay and ambled inside to great the residents of Station 8. First thing in the door, the instructor asks "What have we started every class with?". The recruits (myself included), remind him that all of our classes at headquarters have started with a gear drill.


Back out the door, into the bay where the trucks are, the bags fly open, and we start throwing our clothes on. Boots out, right foot, left foot, pants up, right suspender, left suspender ("MOVE guys, you gotta MOVE, you've got somebody who needs help NOW!"), close pants, don hood, coat out, right arm, left arm ("Come on, you should already be out the door, let's GO guys, move with a purpose!"), zip coat, close storm flap, close collar, helmet on, gloves out, right glove, left glove, DONE!

All that practice is finally paying off, cause I managed to don all that stuff first out of my class nearly every time. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I allowed a small smile to emerge on my face as I waited for one of the other members of my crew to finish getting his gear on.

The instructor keeps pushing the last guy on our crew until he's dressed and then turns to address all of us:

"Who is slow, here?"

We all point mutely to our buddy (no offense to him) who got dressed at least 15 seconds behind the rest of us. The instructor shakes his head.

"Do you get the truck out the door without your last crew member?"

We reply with the obvious "No".

"Than HE is not slow; CREW THREE is slow. You've gotta encourage your buddy here because you are all as slow as he is at getting to where you need to be."

My smile fades a bit.

"Get that gear off, and let's do it again".

We did a lot of work today with hoses and breathing tanks, but that mentality is I think what will stick with me the most. This isn't really a "competitive" job. I get no points even if I do everything twice as fast and twice as well as anyone else. If we work together and get our shit done, WE win. If my crew doesn't accomplish their objective, WE lose. Regardless of my individual contribution.

It can be frustrating, in a way. I can't practice FOR the other members of my team, I can only ask that they do so for the sake of all of us. But in another way, it's the pinnacle of the human chain. We aren't trying to jostle for position in the organization. We don't climb for the heights by stepping on the heads of our peers. Instead, we're trying to boost each other up, to make ourselves as a whole crew the best we can be.

And if we get to save lives in the process, so much the better.

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