By Raul A. Angulo
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I used to do triathlons. Yup, swim, bike, and run, but that was about 45 pounds ago. I always wanted to compete in the Police and Fire Olympics. That has become a pretty big event now. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t do a triathlon today to save my life. I’m overweight and out of shape. Even if I tried really hard, I wouldn’t be able to do it. Even if I had the best intentions and a positive, winning attitude, I would be unsuccessful. Why? Because I’m not conditioned anymore. My muscles would cramp up, I would get saddles sores, blisters, and that sharp pain attacking my side, causing me to stop. Trying something isn’t the same as training for something.
Trying hard can only accomplish so much. It certainly is the foundation of training, but it isn’t enough. If you’re serious about success, victory, and “winning the gold,” you have to enter into a life of training. Practice and training allow you to accomplish what you currently cannot do by willpower alone.
Training is required for any significant challenge in life. A Los Angeles newspaper quoted a personal trainer and former Mr. Missouri contestant as saying, “The guys you see on TV, movies, and the magazines with ‘that look’? Well, ‘that look’ is what they do for a living. The maintenance of that look is what their entire lives are based on. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are such a ‘now’ society. We want instant results. People come into the gym to work out thinking that in three months they’ll be ready for swimsuit season. They want to be all hard with bulging, rippled muscles, and that’s pretty unrealistic.”
Obviously training isn’t confined to athletics, but sometimes we need these analogies to get us in gear. The commitment to training shouldn’t be any less for the fire service. This is what we do for a living.
I am always amazed at the FDIC H.O.T. training sites at how many firefighters say they never get an opportunity to pull a charged hoseline or throw ladders. This just doesn’t make sense! In our job, we train to put the fire out.
If, like with the body builders, training is our life, then there are emphasis, rotations, and sequences in our training. There are peaks and valleys. Good days and bad days. The key to success is consistency. It’s a clear decision to train. Good intentions are just that. They don’t produce results. Just like New Year’s resolutions, most fall by the wayside after a couple of weeks.
It’s a mistake to think that one drill school or training academy is adequate for the rest of our careers. But you would think that’s the case with some of the comments I hear from firefighters who say their officers never drill and train them. How selfish can you be? How lazy can you be? When an officer doesn’t train his crews, he might as well say, “I really don’t care for your welfare and your safety. And that goes for your family, too!” Come on, folks! With the enthusiasm I see at these training conferences on the part of young firefighters, there is obviously a hunger for hands-on basic training. Let’s get with the program. Every day is a missed opportunity. Every day counts.
There is an immense difference between trying to do something and training to do something. It’s not a matter of trying harder but training harder. If you try, you can hope your firefighters will do the right thing at the next fire. But if you train hard and consistently, rest assured that your crew will be disciplined to do the right thing at the right time, the right way for the right reason. That’s what makes the difference.
RAUL A. ANGULO is a 22-year veteran of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department and captain of Engine Company 33. He is president of the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters, Seattle-Puget Sound Chapter, and instructs on fireground strategy and tactics and fire service leadership.