Harry R. Carter while sitting in the lobby of the Washington Hilton pondered why more young people are not a part of events like the Congressional Fire Service Caucus Dinner, the function he is attending.
Mr. Carter and his friend Jack Peltier are troubled that fewer younger fire service personnel are seen at events like the CSFI Annual Dinner and other industry events. They admit attendance at these functions come as perks that years in service affords and entitlement that accompanies seniority.
“As a practical matter when people become more senior, they also become older. At least that is what I have seen as I have gained seniority in life. The older people hang on for so long, and fail to share so much, that the younger people who might have had an interest, lose that interest and move on to something else. We hold on for so long and we hog the spotlight for such an extended period of time that others who should have been trained as our replacements are ignored and lose interest. They then begin to fall by the wayside. Perhaps that is why Jack and I worry so much about sharing what we know.
This bothers us. We are worried that our fire service is losing the many fine hues and tones that have made it a colorful and productive part of American culture for the past three and one half centuries. I have to stress that I am making reference to every aspect of the fire service where a giving and participative spirit is needed.”
He’s right, and then he states what you would expect from leaders.
“Jack Peltier and I have decided the fact that we need to begin setting the tone for how this problem should be addressed. We have decided to become mentors for a number of younger people. I guess you might say that we have been doing this for a long time, but we want to formalize our approach to the delivery of mentoring.”
I’m confident they will and this is what is needed. I’m sure there are formal mentoring programs in many departments, it could be argued mentoring on some level occurs in every firehouse on every shift. Everyone Shepard’s the new recruit.
Mr. Carter and I may differ on the definition of mentoring. He cites an example of a young man at the dinner who was in attendance to witness his uncle accept an award. Mr. Carter and Mr. Peltier offered him tips on manners including saying please and thank you to “can I get you coffee?” and “do you take cream and sugar?”
I think I know where they are coming from but that’s not the mentoring I’m thinking of. The way I would get younger fire service members involved is by asking who is interested. From that list rotate people into events like the one above. Build expenses for these events into the budget or hit up community organizations for donations. A seat at the table CSFI dinner is $275.00. Two nights in a hotel in Washington D.C. $400.00. Plane fare from the West Coast $350.00. Not much all considered.
The CSFI dinner is only one of dozens of events and special training seminars and annual tributes across the nation. Surely some are within one days driving distance to everyone’s home. Bat. Chiefs and Fire Chiefs only need to think inclusively when planning for these trips.
Mr. Carter makes a great point and he is in a unique position to speak out. Firehouse.com is a great pulpit.