Day 20: How not to cut wood.

Lest we begin
to feel comfortable in our academic setting, DCFD is always sure to remind us
that we can at any time be used for cheap labor.

Fairfax County
is coming back on Friday to use the flashover box again, and a handful of
recruits (myself included) were tasked with cutting and loading all the particle
board needed for the walls.

Little did we
know that it was more an exercise in leadership and decision-making than it was
grunt work. Sure, we had fun with the saws and got all sorts of dirty outside,
but Sgt. Paulson had a nice recap with us after we had tried 994’s patented “too
many cooks in the kitchen” theory without success.

“Command” for
this ostensibly simple operation went from recruit Holden at the beginning, to
me about halfway through. Holden was being too indecisive about things, and Sgt.
Paulson decided that it was time for someone else to give it a shot.

I’m always the
first to admit that I don’t know
anything
about fighting fire. But I’ll be damned if I can’t have grunts move firewood.

Sure, my
methods may not have been the most efficient. Okay, I can see why the class
leader might have tried to step on my toes and start giving some orders of his
own. And yes, I understand why there were some grumbles when I told everyone
where to stack each different size of particle board after we cut it. I think
most of them were probably just miffed that they weren’t in charge, since a
large part of this class is know-it-all loudmouths who are always telling other
people how to act (there was a great moment today that wiped a self-satisfied
grin right off one of those recruit’s faces; we all had a great laugh over it,
especially after his “yeah,
of course
I know how to use this saw!”)

Regardless, the
point of the exercise was twofold:

One, whoever is
in command
is in command. Don’t
question it; you might not like it, or you might do it differently, but you’re
not in charge right now. Shut up and follow orders.

Two, if you are
in command: whether it’s a good decision or a bad decision,
make a decision. Sgt. Paulson had a very
good explanation regarding why making no decision is the worst one of all. Know
your situation, know your resources, and give informed orders that will achieve
the ultimate goal.

Sounds like common
sense, right? Well, you’ve obviously never seen nine male recruits take twenty
minutes to move ten pieces of particle board, because everyone is doing something
different.

Sometimes the
lack of communication between classmates during simple tasks is mindblowing. I
sure hope we lock this up before fire suppression starts, otherwise we’re all
in for a very long Spring. 

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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"For anyone who ever wanted to grow up and become a firefighter... from someone who did just that."
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