Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awakening

This probably won't be my most popular post.  For those of you who have read my stuff for a while, you know that I could care less about numbers anyway.  To prevent folks from stumbling upon this site accidentally, I'm gonna sound a little vague, not tagging and linking and bragging and name dropping, but anyone with any sense will be able to make out the "who" and the "where".  I want to take the time though to thank to my IAFF Local who sent me.  Without their support and blessing, I never would have been able to attend.

I just returned home Saturday from our profession's largest conference.  It was my first time attending.  To say that it was a highlight of my career would be an understatement.  It was the best week of my professional life and during it I learned more than I ever imagined, mostly about my shortcomings as a fireman.

It's funny how the 21st century has made us at once instantly connected yet socially backwards.  This week was an opportunity for me to finally meet in person several people whom I have know for years, through e-mail, text messaging, phone calls, and the ubiquitous Facebook.  It's funny how you can shake the hand of another for the first time, yet you've got intimate knowledge of one another.   I can't seem to wrap my head around it, however it was refreshing to congregate with others for one week where the issues of our department, home life, personal agendas, and many other distractions were put aside for a greater purpose: TRAINING!!

So, from here I'm assuming you think I'll have a clever little synopsis of the events of the week with a neat little summary at the bottom.  No way I can do that.  To put into words the surreal experience I had would be fleeting at best.  All I can do is toss out a few photos, hit the highlights, and that will serve as my take on the week.

I traveled with a friend.  At the onset of the week, I had said that it would either make or break our friendship. Without a doubt, we have a stronger bond and are now even that much more focused on our tasks to improve our department.



I took an awesome Hands On course, and I can't say enough about how cool the instructors were.  All of us have encountered the "Instructor Extraordinaire" who has great knowledge but little tact and patience.




Each instructor showed absolutely no ego.  They were there for a singular purpose:  To educate.  I got to cut roofs and force VPS security systems with firemen from this nation's busiest companies.  I got to force doors with a legend and his son.  I even pried window bars off of a prop with one of the coolest guys a person could meet.

 N I C E   P E O P L E

To say that I'll utilize some of these things I've learned would by quite an understatement. Thankfully we were allowed to take photos of all the props and almost forcibly told to "Go home and PASS IT ON!!"  I'm already compiling a list of materials needed to replicate many of these props, and I can't thank the instructors enough.

Along with the HOT training, this conference is renowned for it's keynote speakers and it's classroom sessions.  During the keynote, I had an epiphany:  Yes, I get frustrated.  Yes, I piss and moan.  Yes, I want improvement.  Until I start to improve me, how the heck can I change 1200 others? It won't happen, I've gotta fix me first.  

The classroom sessions were outstanding, everything from garden apartment fires, to large area search techniques, to RIT operations, to firefighter free speech.  My favorite was one called, "Training Warriors to Succeed Under Fire." from Maj. Jason Brezler USMC and FDNY Squad 252.  Since I took the luxury of dropping his name, I'll pay him this compliment:  Had there been a bus to Parris Island outside the doors of the classroom, I would have ridden on the roof!  I pretty sure my wife would not have liked that much though, nor my sons! 


I found out what I thought to be true.  There is a group of firefighters and writers with a singular goal: To improve other firefighters tactically, mentally, physically, and philosophically.  After spending the week with them, I know it is a tangible thing, not some half baked pipe dream.  I've never been more proud to be involved with something I believe in more than this endeavor.  



The FSW community is not an exclusive club that you have to fit a certain mold to enter.  There is only one criteria- steadfast desire to improve yourself and others. That and the fact that you have to be a world class smartass and know the definition of jitbag.  I have found that a few of those guys, previously 21st century friends, to be some of my best friends in the world.  We talked at length, over several meals, beers, walks, and between classes.  We walked the streets of the city at night from place to place.  We visited the 9/11 memorial.  We took random photos of doors in alleyways (No, even at a conference we cannot turn "It" off) we ran a race, and we climbed stairs together.  All along the way, we were out late, up early, and always together.  I can't thank them enough for what they started and what we will perpetuate.

I participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

 Warriors Leading the Way


 Unfortunately, with 30,000 firefighters in town, we only had 200 climbers.  Despite the fact that only 200 registered, not a single one of the 343 was left lying on the table.






There were several firefighters who were carrying the names of multiple fallen members of the FDNY.  Once again, I had the honor of climbing for Gregory Stajk of L-13 as well as Dennis McHugh from L-13.


Those that have read the post know my regrets from my stair climb here at home.  Redemption tastes lovely.  But the climb wasn't about me.  It was about honor.  It was about respect.  It was about raising money for a worthy cause.  If you were there and did not participate, you missed out.

How do I wrap this up?  I have no clue... It will probably take me weeks to digest and process all of the knowledge that was imparted upon me.  Back to the top, when I said the most that I learned was about me.  That's true.  I have seen areas in need of vast improvement in me.  I have vowed to tone down the negativity.  I have rededicated myself to training, even on subjects I could care less about.  I have learned that I don't have it all figured out.  I have seen inadequacies and am working towards eliminating them.  I was awakened to who I am and who I need to be.  I may never rectify all of my shortcomings, but I'll strive for nothing but my best.

My happiest moment of the week?  Standing on the curb with my bags and the airport and seeing my wife and 3 boys pulling in to pick me up.  Hands down that was the greatest moment.  I missed them so much and I owe her nothing less than endless devotion.  While I was off having one of the most profound learning experiences of my life, she was left at home with a tribe of bloodthirsty Apaches.  What's left to say?  Thank you for reading!






8 comments:

  1. Jason,

    Great read...I totally understand what you're saying - and glad you put it down for others to read.

    The relentless fight for our character is a daily affair, whose skirmishes are lost when we choose to die on other peoples hills instead of fortifying our own.

    It is only when we focus improving ourselves that the tide is turned and our mind and spirit becomes clear to forge on and inspire others along the way.

    This clarity is often fleeting - but in the end it is significantly more fulfilling than the alternative...

    Thanks again,

    Travis

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  2. "The FSW community is not an exclusive club that you have to fit a certain mold to enter. There is only one criteria- steadfast desire to improve yourself and others."

    Well said Jason. It is amazing what the collective power of like-minded individuals can accomplish.

    Bill Carey

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    1. I am humbled to be included, and I can't say enough how dedicated the FSW guys are. It's refreshing to say the least.

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  3. J Martin Delmar, NYApril 27, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    Brother,

    I have been to this conference 4 years running. It is always the highlight of my (fire-related) year.

    The Hands On Training you attended was about the best I'd taken in my times at the conference. Absolute gentlemen and more than willing to stop and fine tune your understanding about each evolution.

    When I run drills or training, I 'attempt' to model my approach to that of the instructors I've encountered at the conference; Prepared, Engaging, Firm but Good-Humored.

    "Go home and PASS IT ON!!"

    Glad you enjoyed your experience there.

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    1. Next time I'll have to offer a handshake and a smile to ya! Thanks for reading!

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  4. It's funny, I was asked by several guys around here what the highlight of my week was, and my response was simple. "Which one?" Do I talk about the hands on? Do I talk about the classroom? Do I talk about the random encounters with larger that life writers and presenters only to find out they are just regular guys who stepped out and gave back? Do I talk about meeting people who I will remain in contact with the rest of my life? Do I talk about the fact that while missing my family I had an awesome time? It's hard for a first timer (like myself) to wrap it into one neat little package. I hope to return. If my Local sends guys next year, the selfish part of me wants to return. On the other hand, I want a guy who has never been to get the same experience. If that means picking up more side work this summer to return, I'll do what it takes. Thanks for the feedback guys!

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  5. As a former member of L-13 and a presenter at FDIC, I thank you for taking the "bro" Greg Stajk and Dennis on the climb with you. I miss them and think of them nearly every tour...and am sorry that I could not join you.

    Remember, lead from the front, set the example... inspire, incite, define the model you aspire too.... be a leader, whether formal or informal, in your organization. Change; begins with the power of one!

    Stay 'Combat Ready'

    Doug Mitchell
    FDNY

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    1. Doug, thank you so much for your response. Last year at our stair climb in Charlotte, I picked Greg Stajk simply because I am assigned to L-13. For some reason, it feels right to carry his name each time I participate in a stair climb. That's why I picked him for the one at FDIC. When I saw Dennis' tag on the table, I grabbed it as well. Dunno, something about the 13's. If you see this, please shoot me an e-mail at jason.jefferies@yahoo.com Thank you very much.

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