Ask not what your country can do……..

Most folks can finish the famous quote by President Kennedy, and this week I am applying it to the fire service.
I get a variety of emails each week some are good and some are not so good but at least I am provoking some thought and hopefully doing what the website says and that is “Changing the fire service, one mind at a time”.
This week I am once again talking about a problem that is a symptom of our society. The problem is that it is spilled into the fire service and as emails would tell me it is wide spread. The subject is entitlement.
I should preface this commentary by saying that I have over 30 years in the service in a variety of capacities and I have been involved in three departments and a statewide agency.
Nobody owes me anything, nor do I believe that on a daily basis. I chose this service to do just that and provide service to others.
The problem that I am noticing is that some of our younger members believe there is some entitlement or rights that come with being on the job for four years. Chief Billy Goldfeder coined a term 6/22 meaning someone who had been on the job six months and acted like they had been on 22 years. I think we all have these members.
These are the members who suddenly become veterans once they have been on past their one year probation. I made a previous reference to the person or member who recounts a story like they were there and they were not even on the job when it happened.
Some of the things that have been reported to me via email might sound familiar…. A member with three years explaining to someone else why they should get the assignment, because they are senior!
The members who are first worried about when they ran out of sick days because they have been on for two years and have no sick time. They make these stupid statements in front of firefighters who have not used sick time in twenty years but yet they need their entitlement.
What about the members who suddenly put themselves on the same plane as those who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. These younger firefighters who think that their application and successful appointment allows them to claim some act of heroism or bravery as their own. There is no comparison to those 343 member that gave their lives that morning. Simple. We have never seen anything like that since Texas City and I hope that I shall never see it again in my lifetime.
There are those members who think that some number of years months or hours in grade entitle them to some form of respect.
What tips can we offer to make sure that folks understand earning something versus an entitlement? I am not sure I have a conclusive list but I will offer some tips.
Make sure all new members are taught basic fire service history. If they understand the aims and ideals of those who came before us then maybe they will be less likely to feel entitled.
Make sure all new members meet and review your own department’s history with previous members who have gone before them. Members who may have worked 72 and 96 hours to get the provisions in the current contract that you now enjoy.
Lead by example even if you are not an officer but are in fact a “real” senior member then do not look for any give me yourself but always set an example that what you have is earned.
Teach all new members that their reputation and any ” entitlement” that they have is being earned each day they are on the job. They are entitled to a fair shake from their brothers and sisters and the boss, but anything else they earn such as their own reputation is their own choosing.
At the fire department funeral for a Boston Firefighter Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce made a statement about …”in this world there are givers and takers”…”The takers are easier to spot because they are always in front,…but there are few givers” This phrase has always stuck with me and it meant something as I always wanted to be a giver. It seemed like a better thing to do.
Hey that is why there are choices in this world of give and take. Decide where you want to be in your department and fire service career.
Let’s try to show the takers what they truly have been missing because this business would be a lot better off with less folks that feel the fire service owes them some entitlement to either pay, benefits, respect, trust and much more.
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com