When I think of St. Patrick's Day and the fire service, many things come to mind. One of those thoughts bubbling up to the surface brings a smile to my face every time. Today, join me in recognizing the value an experienced veteran with the right approach can bring to all of us, young and old.
With that perspective, I offer up a special note to third-generation firefighter retired Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Eddie Enright who has about 40 years of duty having been assigned to engine, truck, and squad companies after serving his country in Vietnam. As he would say:
“Only 2 more days til St. Patrick’s Day”
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Over the years, I’ve attended a boatload of fire training classes which emphasized leadership, training, and safety. Most were team-taught. A primary instructor would be there periodically, accompanied by a great group of “assisting instructors” who would each bring a certain level of expertise to the specific topic at hand.
There were lesson plans to be followed, objectives to be addressed and met, and the test to prove that learning had occurred. It’s a method of learning quite familiar with firefighters worldwide.
But sometimes, the Fire Gods might truly smile down upon you and bless you.
As you’re sitting in the classroom waiting for the course to begin, you wonder where all the instructors went. Just then, you hear guffaws of laughter just out of sight (probably damn near the coffee and doughnuts). What’s going on?
“Da Chief” is in the building.
Not necessarily the current department chief, but certainly a chief nonetheless.
He’s been around for decades and he’s seen it all. He rose up through the ranks and gained the respect from his peers the old-fashioned way. “Da Chief” earned it.
He knows how to handle the pick-head ax just as well as how to handle the politicians. He knows BS when he sees it and he doesn’t hesitate to call it out.
Just like Underdog, he is humble and loveable. He listens to everyone’s views and becomes E.F. Hutton: When “Da Chief” begins to speak- everyone listens.
Down to earth. Real.
When you are blessed with the presence of this special guy, drop everything you are doing and be near him. Hear what he has to say. Drink it all in.
Not only do you learn from his experience and wisdom, but, more importantly, from the way he relates to those around him. He does not condescend to the rookies; he gives no guff to those with whom he may disagree. He is compassionate and concerned. His smile is contagious and his love of the fire service is completely evident. He fills you with motivation and oozes tradition.
It will be the best time you can spend in any fire service training session.