The Ties That Bind: Captain Jeff Schwering


     In the Fire service of today, we all are faced with ties that hold us and keep us, as a whole profession, from moving forward. While some of these ties can be broken, with a little effort, some can and have proven themselves difficult or even completely unbreakable.  Many of us in the Fire Service are doing the best we have to move ahead, Cultural Changes in many specific areas of the Fire Service are in the process of taking place or are they.

     In the years, I have been on the job several of these “ties” stand out, as immovable objects in our way. For instance, complacency, standing as a whole, instead of individual departments or states etc, Respect for our Brothers and Sisters, rather than “lip service” just to name a few. I would like to look at these ”ties”  that cause the biggest issues, in my opinion, and while I very well could upset some members of our service, maybe just maybe, I can get these same members to take a closer look at themselves.

     First of all,  Complacency, we as the Fire Service, are attempting to reduce our LODD’S, yet, when we take a hard look the reason for these fatalities, the bottom line is complacency. Whether we refuse to pay attention to our health, drive in a manner that would tax a NASCAR driver’s abilities, or fail to understand the basics of building construction and fire behavior, for buildings of yesterday and today. We all say we are working on the cultural changes, but how hard are we working? Is for today, while we are training, a week, until, “all this silly new stuff, dies down,” are we really seeing and understanding what complacency does and that given time, complacency’s cousin Murphy, will come and pay us a visit. Complacency takes many forms within today’s Fire Service; I hope one paragraph will make people think.

Secondly, let us talk about the Fire Service standing as a whole. While many of us on the job, understand that sentence, many, if not the majority does not. Make no mistake; the Fire Service is under attack! Budgets, politicians looking to make a name for themselves, citizens that love us one minute, but want to cut us the next, feel free to add to the list. The biggest threat to the Fire Service is from within. This problem is not isolated to a specific part of the country, or Fire Service, it is a nationwide epidemic. When we are critical of firefighters, instead of offering constructive critiques and using the events to learn, train and teach others, we fail in our mission. It is easy to be anonymous. It is easy to point fingers at others, when possibly truth be known, we were at fault or have done something similar to what we are condemning. As firefighters, we live in glass houses and we all know Firemen like to break glass. Try lifting the glass, before you break it see what happens. We must stop acting as individual firefighters, departments, cities, states and towns and act as a whole. By doing this, we may continue to do the job we love. Failure is writing off our chosen profession. As one profession, we are much stronger than individual units are.

     Lastly, Brothers and Sisters let us examine RESPECT. When we call each other brother or sister, do we mean it, or for that matter, even know what that stands for? For many of us, yes, we do know, however, the majority is paying lip service to each other and truly, by no fault of their own has not been taught to understand the true meaning.  Respect was taught to us as children, so why have we abandoned our childhood beliefs? I will let my Brothers and Sisters draw their own conclusions, on this topic. We must respect each other, like that person or not. Treat each other the way you wish others to treat you.

     I hope that by reading this, you can see that all of these topics “tie” together. This in my humble opinion are tops at the list of issues that effect us all today. Understand Brothers and Sisters, that we all have pasts that we may not be proud of, if we have been on the job for awhile, but we must live for our future as a profession. Let us all work to break the “ties that bind,” so we may continue to pass on to those who will take our place, a profession that continues to have children, look at us and tell their parents, “Mommy, I want to be a Firefighter!”

I love my, God, my Family, my Country, and above all my Fire Service, that has made me the individual and the Company Officer, that I am today. The line is forming for the Fire Service to be a whole; my sincere hope is we all join.

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