My invitation came from a FEMA and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) team program director that I had worked with as a logistics specialist in the early 1990s. He had contacted several other retired members to create a selective group.
I was picked up at the destination airport, along with one of my former colleagues from my previous fire department, by another person that had previously participated repeatedly in this type of exercise. He pointed out, "I do it because of the high-quality people that I meet and/or return year after year. I learn so much and it opens opportunities, resources, connections and ongoing professional relationships along with the camaraderie!"
I was surrounded by the "upper crust" of individuals — including retired military generals —from such professions as the fire service, forestry, military, USAR, computing/IT/data entry, communications, aviation and law enforcement. They could handle a variety of tasks, even beyond their primary discipline.
Being in the company of such people makes you step up your game. It helped me to develop a more professional attitude and carry myself in a different way — one that more quickly inspired trust.
You need to always think about how you handle yourself in your day-to-day relationships and the impact that has on others. Opportunities to improve relationships and performance can occur because of it.
This experience reinforced the importance of my practice of going that extra mile and/or putting in more effort than necessary. I like to have all my bases covered. This enhances perspectives as well as ensuring meeting the goal.
Expanding your knowledge base in your endeavor of choice and venturing into unfamiliar territory can make you a well-rounded, more versatile individual. Learning to be a team player and get along with people is also important.
It adds to your success and ability to adapt to any given situation. It allows others to have confidence that you can effectively handle multiple job assignments involving leading others, giving technical advice or performing hands-on duties.
Most, if not all previous attendees, had experienced their share of "thinking outside the box." While I will admit that I was hesitant about how and where they were going to utilize me, the encouragement, help and positive influence of others made me feel good about my contributions.
A bit of lightheartedness and frivolity helps break up the stress and rigors that come with the job, and inspires a few laughs, too. For example, I discovered while at station that the temporary portable restrooms needed servicing.
I passed the information onto my group leader and then further up the chain of command. Soon after, I was given a new title and desk name badge written with a Sharpie and a piece of cardboard in front of the laptop assigned to me. It said "Potty Inspector, Mr. Frank Myers." My group leader stated that he had given me a field promotion!
FRANK R. MYERS is a retired lieutenant with the City of Miami (FL) Fire Rescue, where he served 32 years. Before his retirement, he served at the training center for six years as the driver engineer instructor. He works as a consultant for PSTrax.com, a technology service that helps fire departments across the country automate their apparatus, equipment, and inventory checks.