Career FD Hiring - Part 5: The Academy
You are a sperm.
You have made it inside of the golden egg that is a professional fire academy. You are the golden load. You put years of work into getting here and you should be incredibly proud but you are not a firefighter. In my career academy 5 people didn’t graduate. If you think that once you get a red shirt you can relax, you are wrong. That’s 5 out of 35 people who thought that they had a badass career ahead of them only to be cock slapped by the reality that is the fire service. For some people, firefighting may just not be what they expected. For others, it might be too strenuous physically, too stressful, or may not work out for any other number of reasons. As someone who absolutely fucking loves my job, I want to help good people be successful in the academy and be as happy as I am with my career. I’m going to just give some tidbits on academy life, but as always, just remember that I’m just one guy, with one opinion and viewpoint. Let's start super basic with styles of academies.
Where I live, there are many regional academies that different metro departments send recruits through. That means you’ll be in a recruit class full of people from different departments and you are all learning the same basic firefighting skills to make you proficient as a firefighter, to then go on and learn more department specific things while you’re on probation. Some of these academies can be super relaxed, and others can be very militaristic. (Want to be physically prepared? Give the guys at Fire Athlete a look.) You could be doing a crossfit workout in the morning and then cooking breakfast everyday at the training center before you’re outside training all day, or you could be doing 10 mile formation runs while you call cadence and shove a cliff bar up your ass before you’re sitting in the classroom all day. Some departments may run their own academies with only their recruits…it all just depends on your region and what they have going on. It doesn’t matter though, just don’t be a shit bird and you’ll be good.
Be professional. Your reputation in the department starts now.
Firefighters who are already on the job will be asking their respective department training captains down at the academy how their recruits are doing. Firefighters are like high school chicks and if word gets out that you’re a turd, the entire department will know by the time you graduate and your life is going to be very difficult on probation. Even if you're a stud, people will still talk shit. Give them as little ammo as possible.
Take care of your uniforms, show up shaven and be professional. Don’t be the guy in the academy that’s always fucking around in front of the RTOs. If you wouldn’t be doing something in front of the crews on your department, don’t do it at the academy. Save the goofy shit for the locker room. The academy is tiring but fun, so have fun. Be professional while you do it. You’ll make friends for life and connections that will last forever.
For the love of god don’t try and make your fellow recruits look bad. You’re not that cool and you’re just going to look like a gargantuan douche bag. The people in your academy are your safety from those dirty, dirty training officers. Support each other, lookout for each other, and do your part in helping your fellow recruits be successful. Everyone will have some sort of struggle in one area or another, so help those who need help, and accept help when you need help. Did you already do some of this stuff in a college academy or smaller department? That’s really cool man, do me a favor and please shut the fuck up about it because literally nobody cares. Nobody cares if you were a cadet, red shirt, if you already have your FF 1&2, if you worked somewhere else, if you’ve taken college courses etc. Be humble and learn. Everyone has a story and that story has brought you to the same place, everyone is equal. Your shirt is red, your mouth is shut. #LeaveNoHandUnshaken and if a crew from your department is at the academy helping out, you better introduce yourself.
I know nobody asked, but did I tell you I was a volunteer?
If you need help, ask for help. Nobody is going to think less of you…until you fail the test or evolution that everyone else passed. The RTOs are there to teach you. They understand that you have no idea what you’re doing and that everything is new to you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and accept extra help - especially if it's offered. Get as many sets and reps as you can. This is the one part you can be selfish. In my academy class, you would run out to the stations you were at for the day and sign up with the others in your group. I had days where I was on every other rotation because I wanted the reps, and there were days where I hung back because an RTO told a few of us to let the people hiding out (which they noticed) get reps in. You want to be held back like an aggressive dog on a leash. You do not want to be pushed forward like a pussy.
When you show up to your department after the academy you are expected to have a solid understanding of the basics. There is no excuse to not be proficient in the basics. Take advantage of the opportunities that you’re given. Be a professional. One of our RTO’s said “Just because you are paid, does not make you a professional.” I wrote that on my locker at the station I am at now.
It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A lot of people drawn to the fire service are generally active people, which is great. But you need to weigh the pros and cons of your hobbies and decide if you need to put those hobbies on hold for a little bit so that you can make it through the academy. Is a Spartan Race over the weekend and blowing out your knee worth it? One of my academy buddies got drunk riding an electric scooter at the bars, and broke something in his hand that he had to hide for a few weeks. You are below a probationary employee in the academy. You are still a conditional hire. Do not fuck this up.
One of the many side gigs you should avoid during the academy, you moron.
Fitness in the fire service is definitely a unique beast and if you’ve never worked in turnouts before, it would behoove you to go ahead and give that a whirl. At a time in my life when I considered myself to be in excellent physical shape, I did a course for the first time in turnouts, and I threw up halfway through. But of course, mama didn’t raise no bitch and I finished the workout and hated life the entire time. You will likely be in your turnouts regularly in your academy so being in excellent physical condition before you show up will definitely help you. Again, remember how hard you had to work to get here, don’t let you being a fatass be the thing that ends your dream. The academy is not the time to get in shape. You are expected to be ready to train when you show up. The machine don’t stop because you can’t keep up.
The most important thing to take away is that you have worked your ass off to get into an academy, and you need to respect and protect that at all costs. You are a recruit, you are not a firefighter. Be prepared, be professional, and show up everyday ready and willing to learn.
Remember that, you golden load.