FDIC International 2018 Q & A: Paul Combs

Paul Combs

FDIC Conference Director Diane Rothschild recently spoke with Lieutenant Paul D. Combs, Bryan (OH) Fire Department, who will be the recipient of the 2018 Fire Engineering/ISFSI George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award at the FDIC 2018 General Session, about the whole FDIC “experience.”

RELATED: Paul Combs Illustrations

DR: How long have you been teaching/attending FDIC?

PC: I attended my first FDIC in 1999 and have attended 15 since. My first FDIC presentation, called “The Art of Making a Difference,” was given in 2014, as well as my being an assistant instructor for Jim Crawford’s H.O.T. evolution “RIT Combat Drills.”

DR: How did you get into instructing in general?

PC: I took my instructor knowledge test on the same day I became eligible in 2000 because it was something I aspired to from my first days as a rookie. I admired my instructors and wanted to be part of that world of teaching and molding the next generation.

DR: What sets your experience at FDIC apart from attending other conferences?

PC: I have had the opportunity to attend and experience many conferences, and FDIC stands alone as the one conference where you truly get an opportunity to learn from the very best of the best the fire service has to offer. Other conferences offer good material, but FDIC offers a Super Bowl experience that will leave you in awe but never lets you forget that you are a student first and that education is the primary goal. 

DR: What was your reaction to being selected to receive the George Post Instructor of the Year Award?

PC: Stunned is an understatement! I received the call while vacationing with my wife in San Antonio after giving a presentation at the TEEX Conference. I am humbled beyond words when I see the past recipients of this award. Please know this recognition doesn’t belong to me but to everyone who has helped me along the way and to my family, who supports my crazy dreams. 

DR: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the fire service today and why?

PC: As with the nation, the fire service is mirroring the incivility and intolerance to differing opinions that grips our country—especially through social media! We use the term “Brotherhood” loosely and without gravity, at times, when we need the literal meaning of brotherhood and sisterhood more than ever. Firefighters have always been a spirited lot, and that’s a good trait, but we need to remember that brotherhood means family, and family is blood, regardless of our differences.

DR: What is your “takeaway” from a week at FDIC?

PC: Perspective. It becomes easy to settle into one’s routine or become disgruntled by the day-to-day issues that surround our fire service—a man stranded on an island. Like so many others, I look to FDIC to recharge my batteries of hope and excitement and to expel the notion that I am walking this path alone. We laugh, we hug, we train, and we work out the world’s issues—all in a week’s time. There’s no experience quite like FDIC, and it’s an experience everybody should have at least once in their career.

DR: Who are your FDIC role models and why?

PC: I was among thousands in the audience the day Chief Rick Lasky gave his keynote address on Pride and Ownership, and it was life changing to say the least. I credit him as being the spark that set my career as an artist and a firefighter down its current path—something I’m sure he’s tired of me telling him, I’m sure. Since 2000, I have had the privilege of meeting many people who would shape my life and, in so many ways, still do: Mike Gagliano, Jim Crawford, Mike Dugan, Jerry Tracy, John Norman, Frank Viscuso, Billy Goldfeder … and, of course, Bobby Halton. Chief Halton recognized my potential from the first time I met him after taking the reins of Fire Engineering, and he began the conversation that would eventually land me in the magazine and FDIC. I am proud to say our handshake agreement is 10-years strong!

DR: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?

PC: Listen more than you speak, and revel in the opportunity to grasp the amount of knowledge and experience around you. Learn from your instructors and presenters, of course, but networking after hours is a priceless experience. Pay attention when you find yourself in a group of seasoned firefighters who are telling stories and talking tactics at a local bar or restaurant. Be a sponge and soak up the experience, the spectacle, and the personalities that have shaped the fire service landscape … because someday, it will be you!

Presentation During the General Session

Thursday, April 26, 2018, 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.

Sagamore Ballroom 1-7, Indiana Convention Center

The award, which incorporates the Training Achievement Award previously given by Fire Engineering at the FDIC, is named for George D. Post, who was a long-time member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI). Post was a member of the Fire Department of New York, an illustrator of fire service publications, and a developer of instructional materials and is considered by many to be the father of visual training material used to train fire service personnel around the world.

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