You’re just a Rookie is something that all of us have most likely heard at one point in time in our careers. It doesn’t matter if you have been in this business for 25 years or 2 years, there is always someone that has been there longer and has seen more. Now granted there are a lot of Officers, Sr. Firefighters, or Firefighters with more experience that won’t say these words; but how should we take it if it is said.
“You have done what?“
For those of you that don’t know I am very green as far as my time and experiences in the fire service; but at the same time that does not mean that I haven’t seen something or done something you haven’t. We all know that every academy is different and every department is different in how they train, operate, and work as a whole. So that being said how do we know what each member has experienced or done. At the end of the day, you can’t say that a large department in Texas has had the same experience and operates the same as one in California.
“What did you say?”
Many times I or have seen someone ask a question during training or even after a run, and the response they get back is “What did you say”. Many officers may take a question that was asked about why they did or didn’t do something as offensive or questioning one’s authority. And yes in some cases this may be true, but in most, they just want to know why or why not someone made said decision so that one day if they have to make that call they will have the experience to back it up.
“You haven’t been here long enough to know!”
So many times have I heard this said, and it makes me wonder how one person can know all the possible fixes to the task at hand. The fire service as a whole is continually changing. Whether it be the fires we fight or the tactics we use to fight them. But it’s not just the service when you get in that’s changing it even changes in the way we train those who will one day take our place; or even in what region we work in. With me starting in the panhandle of Texas and moving to Northwest Texas the fires are completely different. Where in the panhandle they have fast wind drove fires, and in Northwest Texas, they have mostly hot, heavy brush fires. You simply can not get a type 3 grass truck in thick brush as easily as you and a small type 6 truck; and the just the opposite you can’t stay on a fire line long enough with a small 300-gallon tank of a type 6 truck like you can with a type 3. Just because one is new to the department does not mean that they don’t have a different way of doing the job that may or may not work better.
Now all that being said what is to say that the rookie hasn’t done or seen a better way to do something. In this field, we need to have a toolbox filled with tools. A hammer won’t loosen a bolt as well as a wrench will. If we don’t evaluate what we have and what tool we need to use, then we can’t get the job done effectively. And who knows that rookie may have the screwdriver you need when you don’t have one. I’m not saying that you should always rely on others to make your decisions or that you should always put your opinion out there on how things should be done, but always remember there are a million ways to do everything don’t just rely on one. We should always have a deep burning desire to learn and improve even if it means learning from someone lower than you.