‘I used to be a good company officer’
Coming to terms with what changes – and why – through the course of promotions and increased responsibilities
Once upon a time, I rode a truck. I would respond with my guys and lead from the front, making quick decisions on the fireground or in the middle of a highway at 3 a.m. We would train and work out, always pushing each other and making one another better for the next run. I would give the advice, and the crew actually listened. The knowledge I had was the knowledge they wanted. I used to be a good company officer.
I didn’t sit at a desk for the whole 24. I would rub elbows in the dayroom, wash the rig in the bay, or get invited to have a cigar out behind the station. I was a counselor, a friend, a brother and a coach. I used to be a good company officer.
This job has a way of giving you things, things you wouldn’t get at a normal 8-5. Brotherhood, camaraderie and love, even if in the form of a ribbing. We start young. We start ambitious. We take the promotional exams, and we change our focus. A lot of the guys say they don’t. But they do. With even the best of intentions, which I have always had, I used to be a good company officer.
The love for the job never wanes. If anything, it grows. But the workload begins to look a little different no matter how hard we push back. Your old crew won’t understand. If anything, they’ll talk about the good old days, as if about a friend they used to know. I used to be a good company officer.
As we grow in career, the distance spreads. The bonds and the camaraderie become less and less. We can chase them down, we can force, and we can push, but the cards are on the table, and nothing looks the same. I used to be a good company officer.
Is it my responsibility to make them see the reasons why I have changed? Or is it the nature of the beast, just the way it is? I used to be a good company officer.
People will say, “They need a boss, not a friend.” We split into two directions, whether we admit it or not. Going backwards and forward, running in circles while standing still, all the while trying to recreate what it was like when I used to be a good company officer.
The fact of the matter is, it’s partly true what they say. They do need a boss, not a friend. People crave leadership but are sometimes unsure how to follow. While I battle my own demons and fight the natural process, I can miss the opportunity to learn the lessons from when I used to be a good company officer.
Coming out of that role can feel different. Like a mid-life crisis. You thought you wanted it, but you sometimes question if you really did. You thought you knew what the job entailed, but some things can’t be taught. I can’t expect them to understand, when I didn’t either, when I used to be a good company officer.
But when you stop and you think and you play it all back, it is their time to shine, and you have lessons to share from when YOU were a good company officer.
Yes, life is different and, yes, the separation can be lonesome. But as Chief Billy Goldfeder said, “the beat goes on.” I didn’t understand that quite as much as I do now, back when I used to be a good company officer.
I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to embrace the different. New opportunities can sometimes be hard to see, especially when you don’t get out of your own way. We don’t always have to be the hero. And it is likely that someone once had to move out of the way to let you lead by your own accord.
Sometimes, the best leader is behind the curtain, and arriving fourth on scene, after an up-and-coming lieutenant or captain has already laid the groundwork. If we fail to step aside, and let them have their time, we stand a chance of hindering a completely new opportunity to build upon one another.
No matter what, and no matter how high you go, never stop learning, and never give up the tools and lessons you learned when you were a good company officer.