A variation of "OJT"


Photo by Nate Camiford (RoanokeFire.com)

For most folks, “OJT” means On Job Training.

For me however, at least here lately; it means On Job Therapy.

In my last post “When Firefighters Need Rescue” (link) I shared some details of my battle with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) , grief and stress following my brothers death.

I mentioned that I had returned to duty and that decision or “step” in my healing process was as huge and difficult as any of the others I’ve made. It turned out like many of the other steps I’ve taken in this journey and I’m glad I took it.

We work a 24 hr shift. We are on duty 7am-7am every other day until we’ve worked 3 days, then we get a “4 day break” (ie: we work Mon, Wed, Fri. then off Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue…. go back for Wed, Fri, Sun and start another 4-day break).

Believe it or not, I didn’t want to go back. Returning to the job had become a huge source of stress, anxiety and fear for me. Here’s a quote from my previous post “I actually didn’t want to return to work. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I did know that I didn’t want to see another dead body. I was tired of death. I was tired of seeing people at their worst. Tired of seeing people suffer. That and I wasn’t sure how I’d be received by the members.”.

Wouldn’t you know that my very first run after returning to duty was an EMS call where I had to signal D.O.A (Dead On Arrival). I was face to face with exactly I had hoped to avoid.

I was also worried about my performance (among MANY other things). I worried if my mind could be focused enough to make the decisions an Officer often times has to make. Would I have the same decision making skills as I had before my illness?

Well, on the last day of our cycle (Sunday 22nd) we caught some Mutual-Aid work with our Brothers and Sisters in Salem.


Photo by Don Altice

Salem requested a 2nd Alarm which brought 2 Engines, a Truck and Battalion from my City.

I was the first of our units to arrive and to be honest, I’m not even sure what I said. What my “size up” was or what channel I even gave it on (we have to operate using 2 radios … ours and a hand held from Salem).

Obviously, the fire was well off when Salem requested the 2nd alarm.

When I arrived, both the first and 2nd floors had heavy fire showing from the Bravo, Alpha and Delta sides. The Brothers and Sisters from Salem were hard at work and fighting to get ahead of the fire’s progress.

It was obvious that the fire had extended into the attic and was working front to back. Salem command assigned us to the rear.

Photo by Don Altice

Upon reaching the Charlie side (rear), I made the decision to push in. The first and second floor doors were open and the rear (charlie side) of the interior clear enough to give us a chance at getting a knock on the fire and holding it to the front of the structure.

I took the 2nd floor with members from Engine 4 and Ladder 5. Other City members made the push below us on the first floor.

I even had the nozzle for the first few minutes inside until I realized that I needed to be up directing the attack. Lt. Weaver (Engine 4) took over on “the knob” and did one hell of a job.

Several factors hindered us along the way and in the end, we didn’t save much. Looking back, I’m not sure we ever really had a chance but the effort (fight) did turn out to be good therapy for me.

I say that with all due respect to the occupants / home owners. We (I) NEVER want to see someone’s home and possessions burn. These people lost everything they had and there’s nothing to celebrate about that.

For me though, it was another step forward in my healing process and just like dealing with the dead body on my first day back, I made it past this obstacle.

I still have a long way to go but it feels good to be moving forward for a change. I owe a lot of my progress to my therapist. Although I still leave her office every morning in tears, she’s helping me take those steps toward recovery. She’s helping and teaching me how to cope with the obstacles.  She’s encouraging and getting me back to the things I used to enjoy.

Just writing this post is an example. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog and sharing my thoughts, views and stories with you folks for many years now. After Jack’s death, I just didn’t feel like writing anymore. I had “clammed up” and was holding all my thoughts / emotions inside. I didn’t realize how much of a “release” writing was for me. I didn’t realize how much weight I lifted from my mind and soul by sharing my thoughts and feelings. She got me back to the computer. Thank you for waiting for my return.

Follow Ironfiremen.com on Face Book Click HERE

This week, I will return to something else I enjoyed before Jack’s death … public speaking.

This weekend, Rhett (Rhett Fleitz aka The Fire Critic ) and I will speak / teach for the Capital Region Fools in Albany, New York (click the link below).

Capital Region FOOLS Training Seminar

It’s going to be a GREAT event!

Rhett and I are going to discuss Mental / Professional Health and Wellness, Motivating firefighters,  Improving morale and Social Media.

In our discussion on Mental / Professional Health and Wellness, I am going to share a lot of my story. It’s going to be open, raw and full of emotion. We’re going to talk about one of the most important things we can do as Firefighters … PROTECTING OUR OWN.

The rest of the seminar will be just as educational and beneficial. If you are ANYWHERE in the area …. MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND! (here’s the link again )

Rhett and I speak / teach on various topics and can cater a presentation to meet your needs. Think about us for your next training seminar, banquet, Holiday party etc. Find out more in the link below ….

Hear Me Speak

So, little by little … step by step, I’m making my way toward my “new normal”. THANKS AGAIN to all of you for the thoughts, prayers, e-mails, comments, etc.

I’ll add here that I have been contacted by several Brothers and Sisters facing the same battles as I have been. I’m humbled and honored to think that they trust me enough to reach out ( I can say that because I know how hard it is to make that first call for help).

I’ll add some of the links that I trust at the end of this post. I’ve posted these links several times and will say again … YOU CAN TRUST THEM.

If you need help or simply someone to talk to, THESE FOLKS WILL LISTEN. Not only will they listen, THEY WILL UNDERSTAND.

They are confidential and THEY CAN HELP.

What they can and will  NOT do is judge or make the call for you.

Safe Call Now  Help Starts Here

North American Firefighter Veteran Network

Firefighter Close Calls (The Secret List) .. Personal Survival 

First Step Hope    Grieving Behind the Badge

Psychology Today  Grief.com  

On-Site Academy  

Brattleboro Retreat “Uniformed Service Program”

 Stay SAFE and in HOUSE!

Captain Wines