Bringing our veterans into the fire service

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Adam K. Thiel Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Bringing our veterans into the fire service

Whether retired from active duty, or still serving in the Guard and Reserve, our veterans have demonstrated many of the same competencies we expect in our fire departments.

By Adam K. Thiel

Personally, I was very pleased to hear about this proposed program to help get our veterans employed as firefighters in their local communities.

In my experience hiring numerous firefighters and medics through the years, I've found members of the armed forces to be outstanding candidates.

Whether retired from active duty, or still serving in the Guard and Reserve, our veterans have demonstrated many of the same competencies we expect in our fire departments.

I know that some fire chiefs are concerned about Guard members and Reservists potentially being deployed for extended periods of time, and I certainly understand the hardship that can place on departments that are already suffering from budget cuts and staffing shortages.

It's also true that returning veterans sometimes need additional support to address what they've experienced in the course of their service. (Although our departments should already be providing substantial access to behavioral health services for incumbent firefighters and other responders.)

But in my opinion, the benefits of hiring our veterans far outweigh any potential costs.

Discipline, commitment, service, flexibility, physical fitness, and the expectation of continual learning are characteristics shared by our veterans that translate very well to the civilian world.

Certainly those members of our departments who did not serve in the armed forces bring their own, highly valuable, public service commitment and skill sets to the table.

I tend to think that, as with so many things, combining the best of our civilian and military workforces holds great promise to positively shape the next generations of the fire and emergency services.

And I can't help but wonder, if this program is successful, how the fire and emergency services culture might change in the future?

Please join me in thanking all our veterans for their service and stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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