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Chief Mac's Little Corner of the Internet

Lieutenant Promotional Presentation 30 JAN 2006

The journey you are about to undertake is very personal, as has been the one that got you here, yet your personal performance will be viewed through many prisms – public opinion, your Chiefs, your Troops, your family, and yourself.

 

If you remember nothing else from these remarks, remember the word “TRUST” !!! Your troops and the citizens we serve expect to be able to trust you absolutely; your authority is based upon this trust, as must be your dedication to accomplish the mission with integrity and professionalism, while caring for the men and women under your care and authority.

 

LEAD!!!! – by example, by action, by demeanor, be hard and demanding, uncompromising in the things you deem critical, but be FAIR!!

 

Treat all with honesty, dignity, and respect. Treat your Firefighters like adults, your equals and they will deliver on the moral, physical, intellectual , and emotional contract of being a Firefighter, when times are their toughest when the fear and uncertainty of combat grips them- they will deliver,  they will stand up and be counted.

 

Much like each of you I was promoted to Lieutenant in 1971, after just 7 years on the job. I’ve held the ranks of Captain, Deputy Chief and Chief of Department, in my 42 years of service, and what have I learned from my service?

 

I was never the best trained, most experienced, most capable officer in many situations, but I was the one who was there. You will not be given the opportunity to pick and choose your crisis, you must be ready for them mentally, physically and as a team.

 

I may have had a leadership role, but I was never important, the men and women you as an officer ask to go in harm’s way are the ones who are important. Your job as an Officer is to provide a workable plan, backed up by realistic training and the resources required, to those who must accomplish the mission.

 

I had the gift of loving parents, who never told me I could not achieve my goals and who loved me for who I am. Never forget your roots, they nourish you forever, you owe a great deal to your parents –thank them! You will learn that family sustains us, makes us better and stronger. I had to learn to share at least a part of me that was forged in the hurt and pain of the Fire Service with them, for it has been they who sustained me in my most difficult hours, who have loved me for who I am. Don’t forget to hold them close. Have faith and love your family as much as you love the job!!

 

It is now your time, cherish it and serve as if the Fire Department depends upon you –because IT DOES!!!

IFSI Newsletter, 'Table Talk'

Spring 2006

“That’s Old  School- this is how we do it now“. That is a loaded statement, not necessarily either true or brilliant, and when applied to the Firefighting profession, can be down right dangerous. When any of our newer high tech toys fail there always seems to be some “Old School“ way of making it happen.

 

At IFSI we have a program that has become one of the most requested classes we offer, it is a short seminar on reading smoke. It is intended to help make officers and firefighters more aware of the enemy- FIRE .

 

It is not the only program out there, a lad named Dotson has a road show dealing with the same topic. Both are good programs, but why are the students coming away from these classes thinking that this is a new or novel concept ??

 

I started in this business in what has become “Old School“, and I can tell you there was no formal education on reading smoke—it took place at the coffee table, on the tailboard, on the curb, or the sidewalk after you puked, and the session was lead by the Company Officer. There were no fancy terms that were related to the smoke, three are still used today—light, moderate , heavy- the forth term  S#@&^y, has faded with the use of the SCBA.  When you were exposed to smoke that was classified in the forth degree, you never lost your appreciation for what it was.

 

It was nasty brownish, grayish, down to the deck, consuming the entire structure, kick your butt SMOKE !!. Run the term by an old dog and you’ll get a tale of a good fire.

 

The “Old School” was a time when the troops brought no fancy toys to the war, yes it was pre-mask and it required you to pay more attention to the attack you were going to make (it’s tough to hold your breath for 20 minutes), a good Truck Co. was not a luxury –it was a necessity. Big lines have always worked better than small lines.  As soon as the rig hit the street, you had a forward view from the tailboard to look for the evidence that you were going to do some work- that evidence  may be seen from miles away ,or when you turned the corner, but from your first glance of the smoke the brain housing group started to prepare for battle.

 

The biggest part of our program should be to work smarter, not harder.  I realize that the young guns of today have numerous things to deal with on a daily basis that were not on our plates years ago, but I can’t accept that as an excuse for Officers to not perform their most important function of training those they are responsible for. We may not have have the frequency of fires today, but we still have fires and they still require a few basics:  Lead-out, Open-up & Search !! There is no easy way to fight the war.

 

Well time to strike it out. I can be reached at 815-834-9201 or by magic machine at < jmccastl@fsi.uiuc.edu >

Stay safe. Keep the faith, give me a call and we’ll talk.

MAC

IFSI Newsletter, 'Table Talk'

Fall 2009

Once again Mary Auth, the person responsible for this publication, sends the dreaded notice, “it’s time for your Newsletter article”, which immediately causes the “what the heck am I going to write about now” reaction.

 

We could chit chat about what’s going on in the TRT world with Training and Validation, or repeat that the funding is being reduced so you better get hot and jump on the train before it leaves the station, but that word has been spread for the last several years and those who paid attention have received the benefit and those non-believers will be left on the platform holding a ticket.

 

So lets take a different road out of Dodge this edition. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to  be part of the Fire Service for 45 + years, a Chief Officer for 25 of those years, and never during  any of that time have I witnessed what is taking place in Fire Departments across the country  in today’s market, with reduction of force through layoffs, and other cost cutting efforts.

 

Granted the economy is sluggish, but I doubt that the local Fire Department is the cause. This situation just did not jump up and present it self, most places had indicators, vacant store fronts, car dealerships closing, businesses relocating, tax base eroding, all things that could be viewed as indicators that the need for emergency services will be on the rise. So when the time comes for the political body to cut, they will go after what they don’t understand, and that is in to many instances the Fire Department.

 

Why are we on the top of the hit list?? I say in many cases we need to look no further than within our own organizations and ask, “What has the Fire Department leadership done to sell the Department’s value to the community?”

 

In my opinion, the main function of the Fire Chief is to be cheer leader for the troops, to keep them as positive images in the eyes of the Community and the Political body itself. Create programs that get the Fire Companies out on the street, in the public eye.  Open the overhead doors and let the folks know that we exist, if we live in our little world of misbelieve” that they need us” we are doomed to fail, the reality of life is we need the community. When times get tough we need those folks to rally for us and not against us.

 

Internally each of us has to take stock of why we choose to do this thing that we do—no one I know took the job to become wealthy, we took it for the thrill of being challenged by the “beast” and kicking it’s butt!! Well today the “beast” has taken on a different form, but has the same agenda . Granted, overall Department morale may hit the dumpster, but everyone has a choice on how you will handle the adversity that surrounds you. No one can take what you are not willing to give up. Go to the firehouse and do your job, take care of your people, train them to work safe, with less people, work smarter. Look out for one another , never let it be said that a Firefighter of yours was hurt or killed because you got sucked into the political BS, and failed to accept your responsibility. We tend to use the term “brotherhood” many times—now is the time to live it !!

 

Time to strike it out. I’ll throw out a disclaimer on this one, these are my opinions, so if you need to disagree, put the coffee pot on, call me and we’ll chat.

Take care and stay safe,

MAC

IFSI Newsletter, 'Table Talk'

Spring 2014

The other day I did something that I had been intending to do, but never seemed to have time – so what was the burning issue??? Having lunch with Emil !!!! Why would having lunch be so important ( no he did not buy ), because I owe so much to him and I wanted him to hear it from me, while we could look eye to eye, and not when I stood in front of his casket, wishing I had made the time !!

 

Who is this Emil person, let me try to explain. On the 15th day of April 1964. I started my Fire Service career with the Oak Lawn Fire Department, and as you all know, this business is instant love it or not so much ! I fell into the love it container and wanted more, so I headed to the Great West Side of the City of Chicago to 1224 So. Komensky, the  quarters of Engine Company 77. Engine 77 was doing roughly 5000 runs a year with about 45% of them working fires- ahh the West Side in the 60’s.

Lenny “ North Eye” Doyle was the Lieutenant, “Gentleman “ Jim, was the Engineer, fireman assigned were Bob Muth, Ray Nice and Emil Grochell. I was a 21 year old kid, and these guys were “old” in their mid 30’s. They were all very friendly , informative and forgiving, but Emil was the one who adopted me, and gave me the direction a young Firefighter requires,

“slow down kid “- Pump kid “, “wait until the Truck opens up then we go “, “if you don’t own the building or start the fire-relax “!! For close to 2 years I was a regular “fan” with Engine 77, and that time spent set my mold for what a Fire Company should be, and what a Fire Department is about, values that are with me to this day, and served me well through my career.

 

So I’m going out on a limb and guess that if you are reading this, then you too have an “Emil”, someone who took the time to show you the ropes, mix the “kool-aide” , mentor and guide you, show you when you go and when you don’t. Be aggressive, but more importantly be smart !!

 

Do yourself a favor, and take Emil to lunch, you can’t square the deal , but you’ll feel a lot better’

How Does A 'MUTT' Become Top 'Dog' ?

What am I talking about—the simple fact of a fire service member who never earned the honor to be call “firefighter”, but yet winds up running a Fire Department, I refuse to call them “Chief’!

What’s a “MUTT”?? I don’t think these folks are limited to the Fire Service, but here we are talking our job. This person would better serve society by being a greater at Wal-Mart, yet they wind up at our door for all the wrong reasons. They cannot  be about something bigger then themselves, no they are only self serving and about them selves. The “MUTT” wears the uniform, talks the talk, but never drank the “kool-aid” that allows you to embrace the “fight”!  "Had trouble with my mask”, "could not get my gloves on”, etc, etc,; any BS line to keep them from stepping thru the door!! They realize early on they don’t want to embrace the”fight” and everything it takes to do it right, so they seek other positions that don’t require direct combat. It may take some time or no time at all, because of their support responsibility, the organization gives them some position of greater authority – lets say they give them a Chief’s rating, please note I said give, not earn.

The path to move on up has just been set, this person is usually an “I” person rather than a “we” person, totally insecure because they know deep in the heart that outside their 10x10 office they don’t have a clue why they got the “gold”, and they like to throw it. So now after a few years of suck holing and passing out paper clips, they envision themselves as real, and start reading other job opportunities, and with a title they may move, in a few years move again; with each move developing a resume, and because they have both paper and the ability to BS, they may wind up getting hired to head an organization, this will be contingent upon what is excepted of the person to be hired. If the organization want’s true leadership and take the ship forward –the “MUTT” is a loser however if the opposite is true “ cut staffing” “ keep the troops in line” and most important “do what your told to do “ –the “MUTT” is golden.

Coming through the door, the “MUTT” must try to establish themselves as having some real experience across all reaches of the Fire Service in their many years of collecting pay checks. It takes those who drank the kool-aid and embrace the fight about 20 minutes to realize this  person does not know jack crap about what we really are!! What is the impact? Well I can guess that you don’t have to look to far to see an organization that has or is going through this. Every organization has “MUTTS” and they will embrace one of their own. The chargers, the “kool-aid “ drinkers, will struggle, because the “leader” failed one big step in their raise –they were never Firefighters in the true sense of  the word!!!!! Mission accomplished, the “MUTT” came off the porch and is now “TOP DOG”!! And a good organization is headed down the tube!!

Please understand the above rant is not based on any science on anything other that what I have seen throughout my 54 years in the Fire Service and also as close as my rear view mirror!!

Stay Smart –Semper Fi. !!