Charlie Brown…


NUTS!!!! As in Peanuts … like the Charlie Brown and Lucy peanuts.

That’s exactly who I feel like today … Charlie Brown.

The scene of Lucy pulling the ball away from him time after time as he’s trying to kick it keeps playing over and over in my mind.

I’m beginning to wonder if Charles Shultz wasn’t writing about my career. How did he know me anyway?

I’ve had the ball pulled out from in front of me once again today. I did not get the promotion to Battalion Chief that I was hoping for. It’s not the first time.

I feel like an idiot. Actually, I’m not sure how I feel. I thought I was smarter than this…. getting all worked up and excited after so many attempts. I guess I’m disappointed in myself more than anything else.

Everyone told me … “they’ll never promote you” … “they’ll just skip you again”… but they didn’t have to tell me … I knew it before I even signed up for the test. I just thought maybe this time would be different.

I was the 2nd senior man on the “Short list” (the Top 7 were interviewed for 2 open Battalion positions) but had more “time in grade” than any other candidate. Actually, I have been an Officer in our Department as long or longer than most of the others on that list have been on the job. I had hoped my experience held value. It obviously wasn’t enough.

My resume is  “run of the mill” and fairly standard. I lack the formal education many younger firefighters have these days. I’ve never been to college and actually dropped out of high school after the 11th grade (which was STUPID). The best part of my resume was the letters of recommendation included within.

I’m not going to list the names of those who submitted a letter for me but trust me … they were GREAT letters from some of the biggest names of the fire service. I don’t say that boastfully but again, letters of recommendation from men such as these, speaking to my leadership, motivation and communication skills / abilities should have carried some weight. A LOT OF WEIGHT.

I’ll add that it wasn’t easy to ask these Brothers for a letter in the first place. It’s just not my “style” if you know what I mean. You know … hey so and so … would you mind writing a letter to my Chief telling him how good I am? I was HUMBLED to read what these Brothers wrote …I even wondered who a couple of them were talking about in the first place…lol.  I wish I could share them with you but it wouldn’t be fair to the authors. They were GREAT letters.

I included my work with The National Firefighters Endowment and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation in my resume as well. It’s been a huge HONOR for me to have been able to serve my fellow firefighters (and the Fire Service) through these GREAT organizations. I added some information about my teaching and motivational speaking all across the countryas well  (along with the Fire Critic, Rhett Fleitz). I feel as if I’ve represented myself, the Fire Service and my Department in a very positive and professional manner .

We had oral interviews yesterday and that’s when I really started to feel good about the whole process. It went well … or at least I thought so. I walked out of that room knowing I would get “the nod” this time. I got to mention all the above information and tie it all together for the panel. I feel like I have started to “prove” myself on a National level and asked for the opportunity to do the same on a local level while continuing to move our Department forward. A well respected Chief that I’ve looked up to for years once told me that a firefighter like myself needs a very good briefcase and time to travel because we are only appreciated 50 miles or greater from our home Department…. LOL.

The Department I work for is already a GREAT Department, being Internationally Accredited and having an ISO rating of 2; but we are also at a “cross roads” if you will. We just made a lot of promotions. We just promoted a new Deputy Chief of Operations which makes up 1/3 of our Executive Staff. The promotion of 2 new Battalions equates to nearly 30% of our Command Staff plus we made 7 new Captains and 6 Lieutenants. I think that may be a first in our Department’s rich history. I’m excited to see the direction our new leaders will take us.

This post is not a “bitch”, “rant” or a “woe is me” post at all. I simply wanted to make sure you understand where I’m coming from and to share with you what I’m feeling today. When I got the phone call this morning, I felt as if I’d been kicked in the gut! I’m sure it happens everyday to Brothers and Sisters all across the country and it’s a shame. I know there’s a better way.

I have all the confidence in our Chiefs and I’m sure they made their choices for the right reasons…. for the “greater good” of our Department.  I’ll add my congratulations to all of our new Officers and wish them the best of luck. I say that with all sincerity and offer my assistance if any of them should need it.

Anything less would make me a hypocrite. I may be broke but I’m not broken. Isn’t this exactly what Rhett and I travel so much to speak about? “Owning the job” …. Tradition, Pride, Honor, Respect and the Brotherhood.  Isn’t circumstances like this what has made me such a well respected Captain?

It’s NOT about me and some promotion … it’s about the job … about the Brothers and Sisters I work with. It’s about moving our Department and the Fire Service forward and making sure everyone goes home. My passion for the job makes me feel bigger than any promotion they could have given me. I can (and will) walk into the station on Saturday morning with my head held high. I’ll walk in with Pride…. I gave it my best shot.  I hope that my doing so will serve as a lesson to any of you out there facing the same circumstances. Pick yourself up …. never give up …. and “keep fire in your life”. I’m as motivated and passionate today as I was yesterday and the day before that.

I’ll finish by saying THANKS to everyone who helped me prepare for the testing process and to those who wrote my letters of recommendation. I’ll also apologize for missing the mark and possibly wasting the time and efforts of so many great people. I hope you all know it was greatly appreciated and not taken lightly…. because you were behind me, I was able to do my best.

Captain Wines

  • Capt. I know that feeling your talking about. The third time around for me I finally got my bugle. This last year I came to the realization that I am a firefighter through and through, I realized that if I was never promoted I was okay with it. I know no matter what happens I will always be happy cause I am living my dream. I also realized that not matter what happened we will always need Senior Fireman and Engineers to teach the way for the next batch of firefighters. I realized to be a leader I don’t need to be a Lieutenant, Captain, or a Chief Officer. The true leaders are the guys that lead from the front The senior guys that make it their priority to teach those that have motivation to learn and inspire passion for this job. Your work outside of your own department is the perfect example of inspiring that passion for this job. We desire so much to be able to do that with in our own departments. Be proud cause you may not know this but your work is inspiring fire departments across this nation. You may think “hey I’m just a simple Captain” but your passion is contagious and has spread like wild fire. Stay safe my brother and Continue to pay it forward.

  • Willie,
    I have two sons now on the job and I always hear, “When I am a Chief…” and I soooo Badly want to stop them.

    Be careful what you hope for.Are you going for the promotion for the pay raise? Fore the prestige? For the additional authority and responsibility? It will all be there when you get there….plus a lot more.
    There are staff meetings; Paperwork; personnel issues; Dealing with budget analysts and other “bean counters” at the local, state and national level who don’t really have a grasp on what we do; There is dealing with the ticked-off citizen who also doesn’t understand what we do, and no matter what you tell them, STILL hates the Fire Department.

    As you go up in rank, you become farther detached from the company-level tactics that I believe you love, and from the day-to-day interaction with the crews that I believe you also love.

    I know a lot of guys with 30 and 35 years on the job. They are either Company Officers or Firefighters and that’s where they belong because they are good at what they do. We need to have those Lieutenant’s, Captains and , yes, even the Firefighters, who can train the new officers to take care of their men and machines, so everyone goes home. A Company Officer that is trusted by his troops to follow their orders without question is worth more than ANY B/C.

    What you are doing on the job, Willie, has a ton of value and merit for the department. Consider that maybe that was taken into consideration when they made the new appointments…that t hey have no one in place to fill your boots.

    It does not take the sting away, but I believe that your destiny is already spelled out. There is a reason that you are sitting in that #1 seat on that rig.

  • John Mitchell

    I’m sorry for your loss. Here’s a check on your perspective which may help you moving forward:

    You still have the best damn job in the world.

    Hopefully you won’t EVER experience the “kick in the gut” that so many good leaders have felt when their lifelong dream job suddenly gets yanked away from underneath them in the blink of an eye due to an injury.

    So while you’re healthy, enjoy this dream job every damn day, because it all could be over in a flash.

    THAT gut pain NEVER goes away.

  • Sharppointy1

    Willie, I’m sorry you didn’t make BC. It stings hard, I’m sure. I too am disappointed for you. Try not to spend a lot of time with the “what ifs” – that’ll drive you crazy.
    And remember you’re still dealing with an even bigger gut kick that’s fresh in your body, mind and soul.
    I think I’ve mentioned my mantra to you before – “Who am I to know the mind of God?”. It helps me with all my questions, big and small. Maybe this isn’t the year to expand your work commitments and responsibilities – maybe that’s next year’s challenge.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings in your very well written article.
    Here’s some more of those long distance hugs {{{{Willie}}}} Barb

  • John P. Bondrew

    Hey Cap,
    Here is a thought for ya. Perhaps you are so good at being Captain, they don’t want to take you off the “front line”. After all, almost anybody can give directions, but only a few can “do the job ” well.

  • J.X. Pershing

    “Hey McAffery, ya ever wonder why you are a Lieutenant (Captain in your case) for life?”


    Backdraft, a classic.