“The Right Thing”

FOOLS patchDoing “The Right Thing” is something we as firefighters hear a lot. Thanks to the F.O.O.L.S (Fraternal Order Of Leatherheads Society) the term and acronym “DTRT” (Do The Right Thing)  has become a common term / saying in Firehouses all across the Country.

What is the “Right Thing”?

Who defines it?

Who decides if what we (as individuals, Companies, Battalions or even Departments) are doing is, indeed; “The Right Thing” or not?

Who’s opinion should even count?

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Let me begin by saying that if ANYONE knows…. YOU do. YOU should know if what you ARE or ARE NOT doing is “The Right Thing” or not.

Picture1It’s (TRT) definition may vary for each of us but hopefully each is also fairly close. For me, “The Right Thing” is all about making a positive impact. And, it’s as much about my Brother and Sister Firefighters, my Company, Battalion and Department as it is the citizens or customers we serve.

Doing “The Right Thing” isn’t about me. It’s not about making myself look better in the eyes of someone who may or may not even have a clue about “The Right Thing”.  It’s not about impressing someone. It shouldn’t be for you either. If it is … then maybe you’re missing the mark. Maybe you’re NOT “Doing The Right Thing” after all. Maybe you’re in the wrong place.

I’ll add here that trying to “Do The Right Thing” can be frustrating at times. Maybe your Officer, Company, Battalion or even Department isn’t focused on “The Right Thing”… or so you think.  Maybe the definition you each share varies.

Officers and fellow members sometimes become focused on making themselves look good in the eyes of the Chief / Administration. Department’s sometimes become more focused on the “numbers” rather than the result. It’s a cancerous and destructive culture that I often see.

egh-logo-mobileI’ll add here that many of the Fire Service’s top leaders got it right in their Tampa summits. Tampa 1, back in 2004 where they came out with the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (link) and again, 10 years later; at Tampa 2 (2014) where they again agreed the Initiatives were the right decision / direction and decided more emphasis needed to be placed on the training / development of our Company Officers.

The Company Officer? Yea… and I’m one of them.

As Captain, it’s my duty to set and lead by example. To show my members what it means to “Do The Right Thing” by doing just that.

Image by Paul Combs

Image by Paul Combs

I should provide you with a “map”…. the “big picture”.  That map will show both where we are and where we hope to go. I should also give you a route and share the direction we will take to reach that goal / destination. In addition, I should also provide a vessel or transportation… a means to reach that / those goals / destination…. how we are going to get there.

It’s NOT always easy. Is everyone “on the same page” within your Company, Battalion or Department? Maybe you don’t even know where you (as a Department) are going. Maybe your Chief Officers themselves haven’t done what is and should be expected of you (as a Company Officer) and shared their direction. Continuing down the Chain Of Command, it could be that your Company Officer hasn’t even shared it with you as a Firefighter.

If you don’t know where you are at, where you are going, when you’re expected to be there or how you are even going to get to that place,  then what do you do? Do you get in and drive anyway? Do you just start riding around or stand and wait for the chauffeur to arrive?

Again, it’s a tough decision. I mean think about it … isn’t that “Freelancing”?

So what do you do? Maybe work yourself to a driver’s seat / leadership position? How?

Image by Paul COmbs

Image by Paul COmbs

Despite right or wrong, do you throw everything you know out the window and succumb to the wishes of  those currently at the helm of this run away train? Do you forget about “The right Thing”, do what you need to and kiss whomever’s  butt requires it just to get to that driver’s position? Maybe then you can try to “flip the switch” and go back to doing “The Right Thing”? WRONG ….. it doesn’t work that way. There is one little word standing in your way… RESPECT and it’s something every leader must have.

Although some call the promotional process and leadership “a game”, it’s FAR from that. The decisions we make, the examples we set, everything we do, affect people’s lives. More than that, they often times mean life or death.

Here’s another shocker… Rank doesn’t matter. Probie Firefighter to Chief of Department, our decisions affect emotions, morale, lifestyles and also often influence the decisions those looking to us make. If you take this responsibility with the accountability it commands, it is a heavy burden to carry. If you get nothing else from this post, remember this….  regardless of rank, YOUR DECISIONS MATTER AND THEY AFFECT OTHERS.

I hope I’m making the right decisions. I hope I’m “Doing The Right Thing”. I try to. I also know that I haven’t always done so in the past. I’m human and I make mistakes. I also hope I’ve learned from them…. I think I have.

10603560_921419564541448_1424390908966010923_nIt’s been a rough couple of months for me personally. I’m still fighting mental health and addiction issues. I’m holding my own. The past Holiday season was as difficult as the first without my Brother. The second anniversary of his death (suicide) was just as hard and fresh. His Birthday came, followed then by mine. Meanwhile, my good friend, Brother and Senior Firefighter who was fighting terminal cancer began to fade.  It was a long, hard fought battle that ended with his Line Of Duty Death (LODD) and burial last week. Meanwhile, the promotional process was ongoing. I interviewed for Battalion Chief at 9 am, the morning after “Boots” died. Thankfully, I was allowed to take “vacation” the day of his funeral but have worked every shift since.

Needless to say, I was passed over for promotion again. This makes the 8th time and it too stings as much as the first. It’s ok though. What upsets me the most is that I once again allowed myself to actually think I had a shot… that I was maybe going to get “the nod” this time. Although they wouldn’t share our ranking, I know that my scores ranked at the top again. If not, I’d like to at least have the chance to review the scores and make sure there were no mistakes / shenanigans. As much as I’m aware, it hasn’t happened to me, but it has happened before.  I want to know where I stood / stand. I deserve that.

The promotion made was not a bad choice. There were only 10 Captains in the process (which also tells me something). The new Battalion has my CONGRATULATIONS and full support just as all the previous ones have had. I hope they wouldn’t expect less from me.

557670_10151100894952849_1508719330_nThe purpose of this post is not to bitch or gripe about promotions or my having been skipped again. It’s to continue sharing my story and to make a promise. If I can endure everything that I have (grief, depression, PTSD, family suicide, harassment, embarrassment, discrimination, a LODD and more) and can continue to hold my head high and Do The Right Thing, then YOU CAN TOO! That brings to mind another F.O.O.L.S acronym …. K.T.F (Keep The Faith)! Don’t let your spirit be broken.

I think (hope) my sharing of these stories and thoughts via my web site, social media outlets etc are a big part of my Doing The Right Thing.  I hope that my story will at least allow some of you out there who are going through the same struggles to know that you are not alone. I hope that you can learn from my experiences…. from my success and failures. I hope you’ll take my failures and short comings and learn from them… turn them into something positive for your life, Company, Battalion and/or Department.  If you emulate my successes then that is the biggest form of flattery and I’m HONORED.

My promise to you is that I will keep fighting. I will keep trying. I will continue to do my best to be a good Boss and to lead my members … to set the example. I promise to keep sharing / spreading that with you all. I promise to hold my head high because my father and so many more before me did. I promise to do my best with The Brotherhood, Tradition, Pride, Honor and Respect at the front of my mind.

Here’s a final though…. if you don’t know.. ASK! Ask your Officer / Boss. “What is our goal here?”. “Where are we going with this?”. “What’s the plan?”. “What should I be doing to help get us there?”.

There used to be a saying hanging in one of our stations. The sign said “I don’t know where we’re going but we’re making good time”. DON’T be “that guy” …. DO THE RIGHT THING and let’s get there together!

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines

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Indy on Fire ticket