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FDIC 2013: Anthony Kastros

Wed, 24 Apr 2013|

Sacramento (CA) Metro Battalion Chief Anthony Kastros discussed leadership in his keynote address.



Ladies and gentlemen, it's indeed my great pleasure to be able to introduce today's keynote speaker, and I'd be disingenuous if I didn't say upfront that Andony's? ? ? one of my favorite people. A great friend, a confidant, a trusted advisor... I've known [UNKNOWN] for many years and I've had the great privilege of traveling round the country together visiting several prestigious groups including the Badgers, the Wood Chucks, and most recently the Cockroaches. [LAUGH] And [UNKNOWN] a wonderful friend of fire engineering myself and FDIC whether it's writing articles for the magazine, doing live webcasts for us online, or presenting here at FDIC. He's always stepped up to the plate, he's always hit a home run. On a really serious note, my friend Anthony recently suffered a stroke, and I was completely taken by surprise because when I heard the news, the day before, Anthony I had spent several hours together. On a webcast on leadership. And I'd never had as much fun being online before. We just had a blast. Anthony, thankfully, thank god he survived that stroke, but he had to endure several tedious days in the hospital and numerous medical procedures. But he came through, and according to his brothers and. Family and his beautiful wife, he's better than ever before. And I'm telling the truth to you now. I'm going to tell you a story, I'm going to give Anthony up a little bit, because that's what we do to each other. We rat each other out. The first phone call that Anthony made from his hospital bed wasn't to mom, wasn't to his brothers, wasn't to his lovely wife... He called us at Fire Engineering [LAUGH] he called us to reassure us that his article that he was working on for the April edition would be in on time. And he would absolutely be here today to keynote. And that's a true story, I'm like, don't you think you should call your mom. So he is the kind of guy who would never let you down, that's just the type of man he is. He's a man of his word. And those men are few and far between these days. Let me tell you a little bit about this true renaissance man Anthony Castros is a 25 year veteran of the Fire Service, he's the manager of the Sacramento Fire Department Command Training Center, and an online battalion chief. He has served for 10 years in the California Task Force, seven on the Incident One Type Management Team. He's the author of the book Managing the Fire Service Assessment Center, and the video series Managing Fire Ground Command: Calm the Chaos. He's been published several times in Fire Engineering, and he has coached thousands of firefighters throughout the country on command, tactics, and leadership. He has a bachelor's degree in business, human resource management, and an associate degree in fire science technology. Ladies and gentlemen, it is our distinct honor to introduce to you right now, our keynote speaker Italian chief Anthony Castros. Thank you. [MUSIC] Thank you. Does anybody signed up for the medical privacy class? It's supposed to be later this week. Think there's HEPA violation class I think Bobby Holland is teaching that. Bless his heart. Thank you very much, it is such a privilege and honor to stand before you this morning. Truly it is, and it's a humbling experience. In more than one way. Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. We're here to sharpen each other this week. That's what FDIC is about, right? Leaving sharper than when you arrived. I would like to thank the fire engine and the PennWell family. You have set the stage for training our service and moving us into the future. As firefighters, we grow up being told that we'll never see as much fire, work as hard, or live up to the reputation of those who came before us. Ever heard that before? Kind of like what the truck tells the engine every day. We repeat that mantra to the next generation one recruit class at a time. Now, while we rightfully celebrate and honor the past, we seemingly limit the potential the very recruits of whom we're trying to inspire. And thus limit our own future and our own legacy. It's the equivalent of looking in the rear view mirror instead of out the windshield while you're driving. So today we're going to talk about this time, this season because this is our time. Each generation seems to rise up. and be defined by the set of events around them. The great generation are those who are defined by world war two, like my father. He was an army ranger in the pacific, he earned a bronze star for his efforts at the battle of Cabanatuan, in which he and fellow members of the six ranger battalion rescued 492 members. Of American POW's on January 30th, 1945. Today, this is the greatest American military rescue mission in history. Now incidentally, I have a little side-bar for you. Father Carney, when he was up here speaking. You may have noticed a little pin on his lapel, that little pin was for a Bronze Star that he received for his efforts in Vietnam. By the time the Rangers trekked the 30 miles past enemy lines to perform the rescue at the end of the war. The POWs, many of whom survived the infamous baton death march, were abandoned. They were left starving, and were sure they would all die in captivity, or be killed trying to escape like so many of their comrades. It did not matter to these rangers the risks that they faced. They were prepared. Forged like iron sharpening each other. Just like we're gonna do this week. They believed in the service and mission to others. A few short years after the war, our dad was working at his grocery store, when a man he didn't know sat in a car in the grocery store parking lot. After noticing the man sitting and staring for hours, my father approached the man. He said, Can I help you? The man asked, were you in the Pacific at the end of the war? Dad said yes. The man asked, were you part of the 6th battalion rangers that rescued the POWs there, from the Cabanatuan POW camp? Dad said yes. The man's eyes grew full of tears. His voice trembled and he said, you carried me out because I was too weak to walk. I found you so that I could thank you. My father didn't require thanks, just like you don't. He understood what it meant to not leave a man behind... Just like you do. The great generation was prepared to answer their call and their challenges, and we are here to meet ours. American Fire Services is facing a new normal, aren't we? A new normal, and it's redefined daily. The baby-boomers are now retiring. Our own war hardened veteran are leaving in droves, after the war years in 9/11. Some question the resolve of this generation, heads down and texting. Some forget then the wake of 9/11, many generation wise enlisted in our armed forces and spent years in Iraq. Afghanistan, or any number of countries overseas to protect our freedom. Once again soldiers are now returning and entering the fire service and ascending up the ladder having honed their exceptional leadership skills in the military. We at Sacramento Metro Fire are blessed to have many veterans among our ranks. And they're moving up the chain of command. So, if you're a veteran, please stand, so that we may thank you. Stand, so we can thank you. [SOUND] [Nine-eleven] was the most significant American tragedy since Pearl Harbor itself. Many in this room lost brothers, cousins, uncles, husbands. The fathers, both figuratively and literally. All of us lost heroes. In many ways, 9/11 has defined us, in this time, as a fire service in America. Our own urban search and rescue team, Task Force 7, was dispatched in Sacramento, California,. To Ground Zero on September 11 as part of the FEMA US&R National response. We too lost friends as well. Brothers we lost were from FDIC west we met or through the National US&R system. I will never, never forget. The feeling of seeing Bobby Athanas alive. He's from rescue 3 in FDNY. I'll never forget seeing him walk out of that tent. He emerged from a tent in amidst of the rubble in a pile. I embraced him so tightly as he whispered into my ear. Dennis Mojica didn't make it. My heart was elated, and broken in the same instant. Rather been, than be defined by only the events that occur around us, we must define ourselves by the character and conviction that lies within us. We must define ourselves now. I know that I'm preaching to the chore today and I ask you, what will be our anthem in this generation? I submit that ours in an anthem of leadership. Why? Because the need for fire association leadership has never been greater than it is right now. And, because all of you, all firefighters are leaders in the publics' eye. Every one of you. They don't know what vehicles and helmet colors mean. But they know what leadership looks like. It looks like you. Whether career or volunteer, you are a leader if you wear a badge and swore an oath. And your professionalism is not determined by your attitude. Your professionalism is, sorry about that, determined by your attitude and your behavior, not your paycheck. Not your paycheck. Lot of volunteers in this room, lot of professionals. We have the opportunity in the weeks to come. To infuse the American fire service with action. Look around the room. Some 30000 of us will be here this week. This week, you will meet instructors, fellow instructors, and jakes from all our great nation, and other parts of the world. Use this opportunity to spring in action. We're gonna break this down into three simple leadership points. And just because firefighters, we as firefighters have a short attention span, we're going to make it real simple. Three simple points. We're kind of like that dog in the movie Up. Squirrel? [SOUND] Beer. Food. [BLANK_AUDIO] So number one. This is our time to restore hope to America. Our time to restore hope to America. We're really great at celebrating and honoring, the past and our heroes, and with good reason. They make us who we are. And as we heard last year from Chief Endor. We stand upon their shoulders. Awards like the Ray Downey courage and valor award, and the Tom Brennan lifetime achievement award are aptly named for such icons. But we don't need tragedy to tell us who our heroes are. Don't need tragedy to tell us who our heroes are. Ray Downey Junior said it so well, said it so well, he said this, I didn't need September 11th to tell me who my hero was. My Senior Brendan Warden said from the pulpit during Ray Downey's funeral, how often we have deprived our children no longer have any heroes. How blind of us not to know that the heroes had been around us all the time. After the war, our dad became a volunteer firefighter. He held this position the same esteem as his service overseas. I'm the youngest of six children. Both of my older brothers became career firefighters and have since retired. Representing 77 years in the fire service. They raised the 1970's fire houses, earned a lot of stuff, they are my heroes. The hero today and I would like to ask them to stand and thank them for their service and example. [NOISE]. They can't stand for very long. They're really old. [LAUGH] I'm sorry. Heroes don't just save lives. They shape lives. I declare today that heroes still exist and that you are today's heroes. This is our time because America needs us. Make no mistake, there's a war going on in America. It's been going on since the dawn of our country. It's the same battle that our forefathers and heroes fought. It's a battle for the heart and soul of America. Quite simply, it's the battle for hope. Now when you pull up in your engine or truck, you bring hope. We bring a sense of calm in the storm. A calm in the chaos that no one else can bring. Our armed forces by the grace of God himself... Fight the front lines overseas. Yet we fight a domestic enemy one run at a time. I'm not just talking about the ones that make the papers, like the terrible tragedies of the last week and a half. I'm talking about the stuff you do every single day. The front lines of your first two areas, and let's face it. When people see the cops coming, we usually run the other way. No offense, but when's the last time you saw someone run away from a firefighter? They run to us, never from us. And today's battlefield is punctuated by the economy, and punctuated by a sense of despair in a post 9/11 world. We felt it on that fateful day, when our brothers were murdered. We must never forget our fallen brothers, and, we must never forget that we who remain bring hope. We who remain, those of us in this room, bring hope, regardless of your budget, company closures, reductions in staffing, rank or pay, this is our time to bring hope. The American who has their own nine eleven doesn't care in that moment whether you're volunteer or paid, but they care if you're professional. They don't care if you're staffer two, three, or four. But they care if you have the honor and courage to put yourself in harm's way and save their loved ones. They don't care about your iso rating. Or if you're accredited. They don't care. But they care if you know your job. We must not divide from each other or we too will be destroyed. Because without each other we have no hope. As we travel the streets going from call to call we are literally the beacon of hope. In the streets of a hopeless America. We remind them of what was once good, and it can be again. Let me give you an example. This is the kind of hope and inspiration that any of us can bring, on any given day. Metro Fire Engine 109 responded to a young girl who had a medical problem. She had a terminal condition. The family was even more upset, as many had flown in from out of town to take her to see the musical Peter Pan. You can imagine all the planning that took place, right? She was transported to a local hospital that night. Upon learning of her situation the Engine 109 captain and crew drove many miles out of their jurisdiction. To the theatre and apprehended Cathy Rigby, the famed actress who is playing a lead role of Peter Pan. They convinced her at Halogen and Ax Point. [LAUGH]. To join them in costume. And travelled across town to the hospital to visit the young girl in her hospital room. They couldn't save her life. They couldn't. But they changed her life. They restored hope, they reminded that little girl's family that heroes do still exist, and that heroes don't just save lives, they shape lives. So point number one, this is our time to restore hope to America, one run at a time. Number two, this is our time to build leaders for the future, leaders for the future. So what about leadership training? Firefighters learn by doing, don't we? We learn by seeing and doing. Firefighters must see the end game and how to get there. Not just study the different elements in textbooks. Why are there only a dozen or so command training centers in America? Why are there almost no fire service leadership training centers in America? That's not good enough. Why do paramedics have a semester of didactic training, weeks of clinical hospital hands-on training and months of internships with a preceptor, while our officers are thrown in the seat after a one-day testing process. [SOUND]. That's not good enough. Paramedics can only kill one person at a time. [LAUGH] I've done the math. [LAUGH] A poorly trained company officer can kill an entire crew. A poorly trained battalion chief can kill multiple crews, and a dysfunctional fire chief can kill the soul of a fire department. [NOISE] Why don't you company officers and chief officers have internships with mentors who ride along with them for the first month? Not good enough. And don't tell me it's because we don't have the money. We don't have the money. Well there's a will there's way. We will spare no expense for an, or effort for a funeral. Whether by fire gun mishap, heart attack or cancer. Yet training leaders to prevent funerals,. Injuries and firefighter mishaps is practically non-existent. That's why you're all here, because you don't get it at home. If that's not good enough, it's not good enough. As my friend Frank Ritchie stated on this very stage, it's not a culture issue, it's not a culture issue. It's a leadership issue. Blaming our leadership pandemic on culture is a way of romanticising our tragedies and emboldening our egos. That's not good enough. Don't believe we need more leadership training? Alright. When's the last time you spent four hours in a commander tactical simulator? Oh. When's the last time you did a, drill and fire ground communications? When's the last time your BC conducted a drill with smoke and mannequins in a center hall apartment building with a tactical training channel. Water flowing, and everybody on air. Because he wanted to and knew it needed to be done, not because it was told to him, or scripted by the training division. Don't think it's possible, not good enough. When's the last time you did a counseling exercise for new or aspiring officer? They deal with conflict every day. When was the last time your department taught company officers how to write? How many of your organizations have actually formalized mentoring a succession plan? How many have training academies for engineers, company officers, and battalion chiefs? While important -. And here's the controversial statement of the day. While important, we should not have more white powder, WMD, terrorist liaison decontamination training, than leadership training. [SOUND] [SOUND]. Leadership muscles need to be built through realistic training if you expect to have the strength and courage to act. Without actual leadership, it's just lip service. We must develop future leaders by mentoring them, not just with stories at the kitchen table. But with real tangible hands on leadership training to help them and their crews survive and thrive. Teaching that modern homes are lethal. That homes built today can withstand reentry into Earths atmosphere. I've seen it. [LAUGH]. Really, does that happen? There's a class, look in your brochure. Coupled with lightweight synthetic petrochemical solid contents, this house fires have gone from bread and brutter, bread and butter, routine, to burnt toast flash over chambers. The benefits of solid, realistic, and ongoing leadership training far outweigh the costs. One department paid millions in lawsuits because one company officer failed to leave at the kitchen table. The department lost even more in poor public image and political damage. What's the cost when your engine or truck gets in a vehicle accident and kills a civilian? It happens. What's the cost when your troops abuse sick leave? It happens. What's the cost when they fail to find a victim due to poor training? It has happened. These are leadership issues. It's a cost, when your command to tackle frequency traffic is subpoenaed. Your command and tackle frequency traffic is subpoenaed. And, a jury hears a dysfunctional, chaotic, and clogged radio channel, in which, a civilian was not located, or a firefighter was injured, or killed. It's a leadership issue. What's the cost if your department training records are subpoenaed. And the topics of conflict resolution, communication, and leadership are lacking, or the topics of command, fire ground size up accountability have no hours logged. What will you tell the jury representing the family of a dead child, when they ask, how much simulator training the company officers and incident commander had? Airline pilots are required to take four days of simulator training annually. Yet we have no such mandate. Leadership and simulator training in the military is world-class. Yet for us, it's an afterthought. That's not good enough. Our leadership training should be the envy of other industries, not the other way around. Leadership training. Don't think it's possible? Please. Please make it possible. The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth is a pound of cure, holds true. So number two, this is our time to build leaders for the future. And finally number three, this is our time to never give up, never give up. Training does make a difference. As much as each of you have sacrificed to be here, the hard part is not coming to FDIC, the hard part is bringing FDIC back home. Isn't it? The challenge is not in leaving here motivated, the challenge is transferring that motivation into a real difference on the street. While you have each made the trip to be here, some recliner snipers back home are just waiting to see you come in and try and to enter, and heaven forbid, try something new. From the comfort of their recliner they will snipe you with comments like. That'll never work. [SOUND] Why should we try that? [SOUND] Or they'll obsess about the Fire Chief. To the recliner snipers of America I say this. Spend less time worrying about, the Chief's job and spend more time doing yours. Shut up and train. Just shut up and train. Many years ago when I was a training officer, I was once conducting a drill... And the crews were obsessing about the chief at the time, and his inadequacies. One of them actually said this, he said this, he goes, well when the chief does his job then we'll train. [BLANK_AUDIO] Remember that stroke? My left eye began to twitch uncontrollable, the last thing I remember before I passed out was the slight taste of vomit in my mouth. [LAUGH] After I regained consciousness and while hosing off my bunker pants. I simply told them this, when you are in a burning building. It does not matter who the chief is, or what he or she is or isn't doing. This training could save your life, or that of a civilian, so shut your trap, do your job, and train. Remember, practice saves seconds, seconds save minutes, and minutes save lives. Fight for every inch and every second on the drill ground, and it will pay off on the fire ground. And you too, chief officers... [NOISE] Are you training with your crews on fire ground tactics, communications, command, and size-up? Or are you hiding in your offices, making lunch plans and coffee dates? I once had a firefighter call me to ask for mentoring. He actually said this. My chief is a good BC, he's just not much of a mentor. That familiar taste of vomit came back again. Never give up. We will make a difference. Here's a story to illustrate. On the morning of August 28, 2010, Sacramento Metro fire was dispatched to an apartment fire with a four year old little boy trapped. [UNKNOWN] and Truck 106 and I arrived to find a well involved 2nd story garden apartment fire that was extending into adjacent units and the attic. The fire was now pushing out multiple windows and doors and was moving down an interior hall towards an unconscious four year old. His interior bedroom door was open. Captain Kevin Wagener from the truck, and Captain Steve Turner from the engine, agreed on a vent and re-search tactic. While the truck went for the rescue, through the bedroom window, the engine slowed the fire with surgical precision. To prevent steam and products of combustion. For the path of the victim and the crew down stream. The victim was on the gurney 4 minutes and 32 seconds after arrival of the first crew company. The incredibly skillful tactics of situational awareness performed by those first two companies is nothing short of masterful and heroic. Little JT Thomas was transported to the nearest emergency room, unconscious, not breathing, and was subsequently moved to the [UNKNOWN] Hospital, where he was in, in an induced coma for six days. We pray contently for him that week. JT left the hospital with absolutely no deficits. No memory of the incident, and only a small burn to his arm from the windowsill as he was moved out to the tip of the ladder during the ES. That tells you how hot it was. By the grace of God he was virtually unscathed. He walked out of the hospital a week later. Mike tell you this story. Not enough firefighters on engine or truck 106 had ever attended FDIC. They didn't learn F, VEIS at FDIC. They never went to Captain Mike Dogan's class, they were never inspired by Bobby Halton. But here's the catch. They were trained by those who had, they were trained by those who had. The training taken back from FDIC by dedicated trainers like you made the difference that day and saved the life of a four year old little boy. When God serves you a slowball over the center of the plate... He better be ready to hit it out of the park. Never give up. A policy wasn't changed, a budget wasn't increased, politics didn't matter. They were simply trained. That's what makes the difference. That's what matters, training. Show me a copy that has [UNKNOWN] It releases the same [UNKNOWN] fire. That's why morale is so high after fire. Its a scientific fact [UNKNOWN] stamina, energy and [UNKNOWN]. The more we [UNKNOWN] stick to training, the greater the troops will feel. So, number three. This is our time to never give up. In closing, Second Corinthians 6 captures the struggle and the resolve that defines us as fire fighters, which transcends the generations. This is over 2,000 years old. See if it sounds familiar. We put no stumbling block in anyone's path so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servant's of God, we commit ourselves in every way. In great en,endurance, troubles, hardships, and distresses. In hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on: beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Poor yet making many rich, having nothing and yet possessing everything. Remember, this is our time to restore hope to America. This is our time to build future leaders, and this is our time to never, ever give up. God bless you and your precious families. And God bless the American Fire Service. Thank you. [NOISE] Thank you. [NOISE]. [SOUND] Thank you. [SOUND]. [NOISE] Thank you. Thank you. How did we do? Well I wanted to thank you all for being here this morning. I wanted to thank everyone for their kindness and their support. This is the greatest conference in the world. You just can't say enough about it. I know we're going to do God's work tonight as we train and drill. Remember tonight, the Fool's Bash is out on the streets at about 7 o'clock following Chief Norman and Chief [INAUDIBLE] ' s unplugged session. I heard a rumor that they will have some adult beverage. So please imbibe. Also if you would please, the stair-climb is still taking fire fighter's names who would like to climb on Friday at 1 o'clock, in recognising the fallen of 9/11. And that's still available. The White River state park, thursday night, I know I'll see you all there. To run with us in 5K fun run. You also can walk. So please come out and join us on Thursday evening. We'll start around 6:00. Stop, drop, rock and roll will follow that right after the fun run. So we've got a really full week. It's a really important week. Please have a great day and we'll see you all here tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. God bless you, and thank you for coming. [SOUND] [MUSIC]

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