SENIORITY. When I joined the fire service, seniority was a thing. I was a new guy and looked up to the guys who had come before me. I wasn’t straight out of high school looking for a fire department father figure, I just knew these guys had been where I wanted to be and done some things I wanted to do. I respected that. 

When I arrived at my first assignment, I already had some time in the Army and a military deployment under my belt, but I still had respect for the senior guys in the fire service. I was not a firefighter yet and knew I had to learn to become one. To me, the badge on graduation night was a license to learn, not a gateway to firefighter entitlement. I understood that though some military principles would apply, guns and hoses were very different tools to tackle very different enemies. I respected the fact that I was new and needed to watch, listen, and learn from the ones that were already here. I didn’t do it perfect, I just did it. 

The senior guys had been to fires, EMS calls, and seen things that I had not seen yet. Things I only heard about in the academy and in stories that I wanted to experience. They cared about the fire service, their craft and were good at what they did. So, I watched them, learned from them, asked questions, learned to respect the fact that they had come before me, and the fact that I was building my career on their shoulders. Yes, we wore the same t-shirt, but we were not the same. My shirt said “firefighter” just like theirs did, only they were firefighters who had fought REAL fires. We were equal in the sense that we were human, but not in the sense that were equal players on the fire ground. Those are just the facts. We were not the same and I was ok with that. Still am… 

Seniority meant something when I joined up. It wasn’t a sense of entitlement because you had years of service. It was a sense of accomplishment because you had poured years into a hard career, were still here, doing it well, and didn’t mind teaching a new guy a thing or two. I looked up to the senior man and wanted to be the senior man when I “grew up” someday. It was a title that was never officially given but could be definitely be earned. Honestly, seniority in itself does not make you a leader. However, if you’ve put in the work and not sat in the recliner every single day, people will follow you for good reason. If you haven’t put in the work, please do not think that years of service alone qualifies you to lead other firefighters. It does not and if you’ve slept your whole career the only place your leading people is to a good nap. 

-Josh Chase

Published by Joshua S. Chase

My mission is to strengthen, encourage, and empower others.

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