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And the winner of the first COCOA Award is...

I have worked for officers that ran operations complete with guard dogs, razor wire and searchlights

On behalf of myself and FireRescue1, it is with great pride I announce the first annual COCOA Award. COCOA is an acronym for Company Officer, Chief Officer Award. It is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates superior leadership qualities.

A lot attention is paid to leadership in the fire service. Just about every trade magazine you pick up has an article on leadership. Lots of articles and columns are written on the subject. There is even a host of classes and seminars you can attend.

All of these learning opportunities are written or taught by people who profess to be experts in the field. I imagine some are very knowledgeable on the subject and some have no idea what they are talking about.

What is the truth on leadership? The magic formula, the recipe for success … put down your pens, I have no idea. Other than being yourself maybe.

I read a passage the other day and I can’t remember where. It might have been online or in a magazine.

It read: “You can learn more from a bad officer than you can from a good one.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. You can gain a lot of useful experience on how not to do things from a bad one.

Razor wire and searchlights
I have worked for officers that ran operations complete with guard dogs, razor wire and searchlights. I have also worked for officers that didn’t know how many people were on the apparatus, let alone who they were.

So instead of overloading our process with all sorts of qualifications and standards, let’s keep our award requirements simple.

I know ethical conduct, fairness and leading by example is important but let’s make this easy and something we can all agree on. The Cocoa Award will be given to the individual you would most like to work for.

Now here is the kicker. This person doesn’t even have to be in the fire service.

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a real person. It can be a fictional character, written or a television personality. Just the person you want to see putting their coat and helmet in the chief’s car for the day.

So with a drum roll, I am pleased to announce the winner of the First Annual Cocoa Award is … Yukon Cornelius. The greatest prospector in the North. Check out this short video clip.

Our winner shows he is a true leader. He takes in two misfits who have had a troubled past with no questions asked.

You can tell even though they were cast out by their previous outfit, he intends on giving them a fair shake. He gives fatherly advice and when things don’t go as they should, he jumps in and leads by example.

Plus, he outwits an Abominable Snowman two times in a 30-minute episode. He is my pick for the person I want in the front seat of a fire truck with me.

Loose ends…
As this year comes to a close, I ask you to think back to July. Our column that month was on a singing Battalion Chief in Philadelphia.

To refresh your memory, Chief John Grillone had been taken off the street and placed behind a desk for singing, of all songs, our National Anthem. The official reasoning given was that Chief Grillone had violated a non-existent social media policy.

Confused yet? Well, buckle in — we are about to enter a new realm of confusion.

Over the course of the past few months Chief Grillone has been requested to sing the National Anthem at city functions. But don’t take my word for it. Search YouTube for the 2011 Philly Fire Muster. You can see and hear Chief Grillone doing his usual wonderful job of singing the Star Spangled Banner.

But as any good pitchman would say, wait, it gets better. There is a clip of the Mayor of Philadelphia praising the chief for his singing. Lost? Me too! The sad thing about this to me is a veteran chief with a world of experience is running incident command on a desk and not out where firefighters and citizens can benefit from his knowledge.

Freeing political prisoners can be a tricky business. I have a call into Sting. He has done a lot of work in that field. I haven’t heard from him. Must be an issue with my voicemail.

The Chief is releasing a holiday CD soon: “Chief Grillone Sings the Holiday Favorites.” If any fire bigwigs are looking in, maybe he could sing the National Anthem at the upcoming FDIC or the Firehouse Expo opening ceremonies next year…

On a sad note…
December brings somber reminders of fallen firefighters. Naturally, the Worcester Cold Storage fire comes to mind.

Another one I always remember is the gas explosion in Buffalo, N.Y. There is a wonderful article floating around on the Internet that is worth the read.

The article, entitled “The Explosion,” was written by longtime Buffalo firefighter Mike Lombardo. It is a very well written (far above my skill level) and poignant story from the perspective of a person who was there.

It’s well worth the time to check it out. Mike recently retired. Hope he is enjoying his retirement. I sound like Willard Scott.

And on that, a Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) and a happy New Year to all -- and to all a safe goodnight…

Will Wyatt, originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for about 30 years. Wyatt is a captain at a fire department near Houston. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments, including full-time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Wyatt holds a master firefighter certification in Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification and an associate degree from Houston Community College. He is author of the book, “And a Paycheck, Too!” Check out an excerpt here. Connect with Wyatt on LinkedIn.