Retaining young members … our future.

Rookie Randy returns to Station 13 editedIt’s not a localized problem and I don’t know that there is an easy “fix”.

We are loosing members at a higher rate than ever these days. Young members. Members who have only been on the job for a few years.

Some leave the service all together, others more to better pay, benefits etc… “greener grass”.

These members are our replacements…. the ones we will train to do the job once we no longer can (or have to). It can be argued that they are our most valuable resource and I would tend to agree.

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Rookie Firefighter Randy Armbrister wearing his new 1010 helmet and FoxFire helmet band - Copy editedThose of you who have followed the site for any length of time will remember “Rookie Randy”… aka Randy Armbrister.

Randy graduated from Recruit Class #14 and was assigned to Lucky #13 on C-shift … to me. Read a previous post titled “Our New Rookie” Click HERE .

At the time, it didn’t make sense. We are the 3rd busiest house in the City but we’re also a single engine company… meaning we don’t have a medic unit and that’s the experience a young member needs in our system.

Our roster was a member short but the ones assigned were all senior men.

I voiced my concerns to my Battalion Chief. Why put him here? Wouldn’t he be better off in a double company? In a house with a Medic unit?

His reply was that he wanted him someplace with some leadership (which I found very ironic seeing as how I had just been skipped again for promotion to Battalion Chief). He wanted him someplace where he knew he’d get the training he needed…. again…IRONIC.

Captain Wines with Rookie Randy ArmbristerWell, “Rookie Randy” got PLENTY of training.

Some of you will remember pictures of him mowing grass or conducting station duties in his SCBA.

We made him catch nearly every hydrant we passed and he was always pulling hose.

Despite what some may have thought, there was a method to my madness. We taught him every way we knew how… by the book …from / on the streets and real life experiences! I even let him kill us a couple of times (simulated of course).

I hope he knows how fortunate he was to have spent his first year or so with the likes of Lt. George Perdue and Senior Firefighter Todd “Boots” Harris.

Read related posts about Randy’s probation period and his stay at Lucky #13 in the links below….

Related posts by clicking HERE  HERE and HERE

Rookie Firefighter Randy Armbrister and Father WebbRandy soaked it in like a sponge.

He was “all in” and even started searching for and buying historical items from our Department off of sites like Craig’s List and Ebay.

Coming from a small rural community, he was exposed to things you’ll only find while working in the poor neighborhoods of an urban Fire Department.

He learned life lessons, made friendships, was welcomed into the Brotherhood and a new family.

We watched him make it through his probation period. We were there when he married the love of his life, bought his first home and became a father.

Rookie Randy Armbrister's 1st working fire 2100 blk Orange Ave NW 8-10-2011It seems like only yesterday but now, he’s long since had that first fire. Good calls and bad … he’s had his share … or as many as you can catch in a 3 year period anyway. The “investment” (if you will) is just starting to “pay off”.  Read “Money Well Spent!” Click HERE .

My point here is this …. “Rookie Randy” is leaving us.

Randy will work his last day Jan. 1, 2015 and then move to a smaller Department a little closer to home.

It’s a shame. Randy was developing into a good fireman. He was a good employee, co-worker, friend but, more importantly; he is a good person. He will do his new employer well.

Seeing so many young members jump from one Department to the next or simply leave the Fire Service all together has to make you wonder. Where are we failing?

Pay? Benefits? Morale? Work conditions? Naaaaaaaa…. couldn’t be any of those. Even if it were, no administration / Chief would ever admit to it.

There’s no data to “capture” or report. Neither is a problem with an easy fix or that can be quietly corrected. Each of these reasons may also point to poor leadership / management and that wouldn’t look good down town.

Rookie Firefighter Randy Armbrister with Captain Willie Wines Jr of Engine Company #13 Feb 2012 editedIt seems like, in many Departments; that an awful lot of resources are being utilized / spent with a focus on recruitment / demographics etc yet they are ignoring the retention aspect. We hear all the time now how a Department has to be run like a “business” so I’ll ask …. how is this good business?

Think of the time, effort and money invested into Randy’s few years on the job. His salary, training, gear, clothing, equipment etc. How much will it cost to replace him?

Like I said above, these young members are our FUTURE and our most valuable resource… it’s time we started treating them as such.

Anyway, I’ve talked to Randy briefly about his decision and at least he’s thought it out. In his mind, it’s the right decision … for him and his family and I can’t argue that. As long as he’s happy … I’m happy for him!

I hope he was able to learn and take a little away from the things we tried to show / teach him. I hope they will lead to a long and safe career. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to pass along our knowledge of the job.

So …GOOD LUCK Randy … good luck and best wishes! I’ll miss ya but remember, I’m just a phone call away.

(Feel free to leave a good bye message for “Rookie Randy” in the comment section below)

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines