What Is Pride?

Ron Ayotte with some thoughts on pride while on the detail.

During the evening of August 28th into he early morning hours of the 29th I was working a firewatch detail at on of our elderly housing complexes due to the power being knocked out by Hurricane/tropical storm Irene. I had a small Honda generator to provide power to the centrally located Recreation Hall of the complex and brought a copy of Rick Lasky’s book “Pride and Ownership, A Firefighters Love of the Job that a friend had lent to me.

As I began reading, I thought to myself “how does one define pride in the fire service?” Let’s take the word pride and break down letter by letter.

The letter “P” stands for professionalism Being professional doesn’t mean collecting a paycheck as a career firefighter or paid on call, stipends or any other form of compensation if one is a volunteer. Professionalism is an attitude, learning about our craft and keeping up with it. It is doing the job properly, without making excuses. It is putting our best efforts to do what we were sworn in for: the protection of life and property.

The letter “R” stands for respect. Respect for the job. Respect for the rank. Respect for those we serve. Respect cannot be demanded, it has to be earned. Most of all, the letter “R” stand for the respect for those who blazed the trail and did the job before us and made the sacrifices (some of them supreme) that define the job today.

The letter “I” stands for integrity. As firefighters, from the green behind the ears Probie to a grizzled old Chief, we are held to a higher standard. When one swears the oath to serve and protect life and property, we assume a position of trust. When someone calls 911 for an emergency, they are, for want of a better term inviting us into their homes and their lives. They trust us. If we lose that trust, it takes a very long time to gain it back.

The letter “D” stands for dedication. Dedication is putting the needs of the public we serve ahead of our own. This was evident in the coverage we had for the storm. The men and women of my Department were away from their homes and families, many of their homes were without power and had property damage due to the high winds and heavy rains, yet they put the needs of the public ahead of their own. Dedication is also keeping up with the latest trends in the fire service by constantly training, reading the print and electronic versions of the trade magazines (Firehouse, Fire Engineering, Fire Rescue) as well as those put out by other departments, such as WNYF, the publication of the FDNY. It is also reading and learning from blogs such as Backstep Firefighter, Iron Firemen, A Firefighters Worst Enemy and others. The writers of these blogs share their experiences and insights that we can bring back to our own personnel.

The letter “E” stands for excellence. The very nature of the job means that perfection cannot, will not and never ever be achieved. There are far too many variables in each and every call we respond to for that to happen. Excellence in what we do is a far more achievable goal.

Firefighting is a proud profession. Firefighters show their pride by wearing shirts with their department’s logo when they are off duty. A proud firefighter doesn’t wear the “I fight what you fear”, “Big Johnson FD”, “I’m only here for the beer” or any other kind of “whacker” T shirt. Career firefighters show pride by having the logo of the IAFF on their car windows, call and volunteer firefighters have their own versions to identify their pride; but one has to remember that “pride” isn’t a fire department shirt or a sticker, it is professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and the pursuit of excellence.

Ron Ayotte is a 29+ year veteran of the fire service and holds the rank of Deputy Chief with the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department. He also works per diem in the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

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