3 ways to earn the patch every day: A graduation message for firefighters

Working every day to improve your knowledge, skills and attitude earns your right to wear the patch

At this time of graduation, many of you may be earning a new patch for your uniform. A patch marks that your significant accomplishment and distinguishes you from others. It is a testament to your knowledge, skills and attitudes as a person who can be relied on in times of crisis.

You should be proud of passing this important milestone in your career.

But just as this patch is a mark of achievements earned, let it also be a reminder of your ongoing responsibility. Putting on that patch not only marks the end of this journey, it marks the beginning of an entirely new one. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and every day after, you will still need to earn that patch. Just as you were required to demonstrate effective knowledge, skills and attitudes to earn your patch in the first place, you are expected to improve and apply your knowledge, skills and abilities every time you put that patch on.

Knowledge base

The knowledge base in your chosen profession is expanding at a dramatic rate. That’s a great thing for our profession and, more importantly, for the people who rely on us. But this means that every firefighter must actively seek out new information and opportunities to practice their craft. A firefighter who remains passive is, at best, a liability to their crew and, at worst, a hazard to the general public.

Every day that you work to increase your knowledge, you earn that patch.

Skill toolbox

For firefighters, their skills are their toolbox. People will keep coming up with new and creative ways to endanger themselves and, in response, we will continue to develop new tools and techniques to meet the challenges thrown our way. Whether your department allows you to focus on a particular specialty or requires you to be a jack of all trades, you cannot afford to let a shift go by without practicing some aspect of your craft.

Every day that you increase or refine your skillset, you earn a patch.

All about attitude

Finally, as any great chief, company officer or senior firefighter will tell you, all the knowledge and skills in the world are worthless in a firefighter with a bad attitude. This is not about being an optimist or a pessimist. A good attitude does not require a firefighter to think that every day is a sunny one, but it does require one to pull out a flashlight rather than curse the dark. A poisonous attitude can bring down a team of firefighters as surely as can mental or physical incompetence. An effective attitude for a firefighter is one of confidence, not cockiness. Even when things are not rosy, and many times they won’t be, an effective firefighter recognizes the problem and rises to the challenge, rather than placing blame and complaints.

Every day that you demonstrate an attitude of selfless service, you bring honor to your profession and you earn the patch.

Wear the patch with pride

The patch that you have earned today is a mark of honor not just for this day, but for every day you put it on. Not everyone who sees your patch will understand all of this. Wear it proudly to show others that you possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes to save lives in times of chaos and crisis. But more importantly, wear it to remind yourself that those relying on you – the general public, and your brothers and sisters in the fire service – don’t care about the qualifications you had on your day of graduation. They only care what you bring on the day they call for help. Make sure that on that day, too, you have earned the patch.

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