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From firefighter to administrator: What it's like to work upstairs
In order to successfully transition from company line officer to a chief officer, a firefighter needs to develop the skills earned through formal education
By James McLaughlin
American Military University
My promotion to assistant chief was effective the day after Veterans Day in November 2013. Over that holiday weekend, my wife and I went to my new office to set up for my first day. I used the back stairwell to go upstairs in a station where I had served downstairs for more than six years as a young captain and then battalion chief. For the first time in my 26-year career in the fire services, I would have a desk that was just mine — I had always shared a desk with other battalion chiefs, lieutenants, and captains.
As my wife helped me hang framed pictures in my office, I realized how far I had come from the days of taping up pictures of my family on the back of a narrow locker door. That day I remember thinking to myself how my life as a firefighter was about to change drastically.
After my new office was set up, I remember asking my wife if she thought I was ready for this promotion. She assured me it was time and that I was just understandably nervous. She reminded me how much we, as a family, have done to prepare for my new assignment upstairs, including carving out time to earn my Bachelor of Science in Fire Science and my Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management along with all the time spent attending numerous courses and trainings throughout my career.
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