The recruit ensemble.

As mentioned in previous posts, there are
certain items that are to be either a) on our person at all times, or b)
immediately available while seated at our desks. Incidentally, “on our person”
includes items that are to be committed to memory; the mission statement of the
Department, the names of various high-ranking officers, etc.

The list probably won’t be stopping
anytime soon.

we already have a small collection of things that all the recruits should have
(most of them are uniform-related, but there is a strong emphasis on properly
presenting yourself as a recruit within 994).


and foremost, our PAT tags. These flimsy, laminated pieces of inkjetted paper
are our primary means of identification. 


actually given two: one is on a clip, so we can wear it on a belt loop, and the
second is just the card. As far as I know, when you report to your
company, this second card goes up on a board somewhere to let everyone in the
house know that you’ve arrived and are working that day (it’s an accountability
thing—who is going on this run with us, is it supposed to be the off-going or
oncoming shift, etc.)
[Can any readers help me out with clarifying this?]


departmental uniform would of course be incomplete without collar brass. 


Worn on
the tips of your uniform shirt collars, ours simply read “FIRE” and “EMS.”
There’s a whole section of an inordinately large binder we were given
describing the wearing of collar brass, along with all sorts of rules about
dress uniforms.

Oh, and
that reminds me; the brass insignias that officers wear (Sergeant all the way
through Chief of the Department) is another recall-on-demand piece of

Bulletin 81 is an official Departmental document outlining everything that recruits are to do (or not do) while at the Training Academy. 


 It’s the rulebook, and we’ve absorbed
most of the information quite quickly. After all, you only get two strikes
before you’re drummed out.

recruits make a game of reciting Bulletin 81 regulations to other classmates;
for example, if someone asks “Hey, can I borrow your pen?,” the only (apparently)
acceptable response is “Recruits are to have a pen on them at all times as part
of their uniform while at the Academy. Read your Bulletin 81, shitbag!”

said in a very official, yet jocular manner; the recipient has usually done
nothing wrong, but it’s part of the rules for the
“whose-buttons-can-I-push-today” game… but that’s a topic for another post.


lastly, everyone’s favorite item that we were issued: our Probationer badges,
known casually as our “Red Badges of Courage.” 


 A slim 3” by 1”, this small rectangle of
red plastic will haunt our uniforms and our dreams until we’re officially off
probationary status.

oh-so-helpfully informs everyone we encounter in the Department that we’re
brand spankin’ new. How nice.


receive more information on this later, but our probationary period should last
approximately one year; it will be punctuated by regular drilling and testing
while we’re at our assigned companies.

of everything mentioned above, we all have to be sure to shine shoes and press
uniforms. “The way you wear your uniform is an outward representation of the
pride you take in this job and this department,” as the instructors tell us.

friends I spoke to recently were almost disturbed by my descriptions of the
Academy. They said that when I talk about being a recruit, it sounds like I’m
blindly swallowing a bunch of institutionalized, good-little-soldier kind of
stuff. They, however, have never attended anything even remotely close to a
large urban training academy like ours.

years ago, I might have agreed with them (time spent with the liberal arts
tends to do that to you. Damn the man, anyone?)  

Today, I
don’t think I can. Especially not when I love this job so damn much.



And to think: this is only the training
for it.


1 Comment

  • TB says:

    The PAT (saying PAT TAG is redundant, since the T stands for tag) goes on the apparatus when you assume duty, and you take off the PAT of the person you relieved. The ID card goes in your wallet to be carried at all times.
    Good luck to all of you, and good job so far.

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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