I have a soft spot for rookies.
I was raised in the firehouse culture under the 'old school' style of captains where the rookies were barked at, did not move or make a sound unless told to, and basically weren't worth their weight in the gear they were wearing until they became first class firefighters. My first two years were a struggle of self-doubt and a bundle of nerves. I felt like every move I made was under scrutiny and dissection, every mistake I made was magnified and broadcast. My first captain would have me stand out in the middle of the winter and pump water from the engine till my fingers and toes froze. He would almost make me cry. It actually got so bad that there were moments I questioned my decision to become a firefighter in the first place. I mean, what was I thinking trying to actually fit into this all boys club? I probably would have flourished under a gentler, more understanding captain. But in hindsight, this old crotchety captain did me the biggest favour imaginable: he made a fireman out of me. I would never be the biggest, nor the brawniest, nor the best.... but I learned to be very good at what I do and think things through methodically, and push myself even when I felt like quitting. Those first hard years in the school of hard knocks taught me to dig deep. In some ways, I feel like a rookie all over again. In my new position as Acting Captain, I feel the pressure even more because I have a crew I am responsible for. And if I am first on scene, I am in charge of the call and in command which can be daunting when multiple crews are hanging off your every word waiting to see what you will tell them to do. That's when I pray I don't choke and stutter under the pressure. So I have to remind myself to just breathe and be confident that I know my stuff...... and my command presence will grow with my experience, which you can't gain overnight.
So yes, I have a soft spot for rookies.
Because I know how new beginnings can be daunting. I do not coddle rookies and I am firm when necessary. And I try to be fun. But I will never ever bark at them or make them feel small. Because it is all about team building..... and not ego bashing. And whenever I have the privilege of having a rookie work with me at a fire, I make sure that the more senior guys hand over the nozzle to the rookie. Because there is nothing more priceless than seeing a rookie's eyes light up the first time he puts out his first battle with fire. This is our duty as senior firefighters, to pass on knowledge and skills to others, and I thank those who have taught and shared their knowledge and experience with me so that I may continue to learn and to never stop growing in this incredible career that still humbles me to the core.