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cadet blogs

How Do You Spend Your Friday Nights?

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Class of 2019) Permanent link
Twarog Photo Prior to coming to the Academy, I had the chance to earn a Firefighter 1 certification through my high school. Basically this course taught me all of the basic skills firefighters use at a fire scene. For two hours a day for my entire senior year, I learned how to ventilate a burning building, rescue victims, dress a fire hydrant, and don fire gear. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to take advantage of the certification during my time in high school before getting here. That changed in November when I was accepted as a volunteer firefighter in the Old Mystic Fire Department. Thanks to my certification, I’m fully qualified to respond with the department for medical calls, car accidents and fires.

 

As a fourth class in particular, this works out well because I get to volunteer on Friday and Saturday nights when I normally wouldn’t be able to leave the Academy, and I spend the night at the firehouse. I get volunteer hours for my entire time at the department, and they quickly add up. It’s a pretty great deal all around. Here are a few things that I’ve taken away so far:

  • Responding to a call is a skill you can’t practice in a class. Over Swab Summer, you go from 0-100 in a couple seconds as soon as reveille goes off. That being said, going from 0-100 when the alarm goes off at the house is very different. During Swab Summer, you fight to be out of your room to avoid being shredded apart for being the last on the bulkhead. When the alarm goes off at the firehouse, you know that someone might be having the worst night of their life. No matter how tired or how nervous you might be, you need to have your act together as soon as your feet hit the ground because someone’s life might depend on it. That’s humbling as an 18 year old.
  • Stay humble. There’s a sense of cockiness that everyone inevitably carries if you go to the Academy. We get referred to as “America’s best and brightest” a bit too often for our own good, and it’s easy to have a bit of an ego. As soon as I put on my fire department uniform, nothing that I’ve done at the Academy matters. I’m expected to meet the same expectations as those I serve with, and I might be spending my Saturday night cleaning toilets (which coming off a Formal Room and Wing isn’t fun). Respect has to be earned, and it doesn’t come easily.
  • Never say the “q” word. Ever. The second you say the word “quiet,” you’re asking for the wrath of God. The second you hope for a quiet night, you’ve asked for calls straight from midnight to 6 a.m.
  • You’re going to learn just as much about leadership as a first responder as being the president of any club. There’s an unwritten trust that comes with rolling up with the flashing lights. The people we serve let out a sigh of relief when they see us come on scene. They might be scared, in a lot of pain or barely hanging onto consciousness but, regardless, when they see us get out of the truck, they know that we’re here to help them. On the inside, there are going to be times when you are overwhelmed or nervous. You have to be that face of calm for them though. If that’s not a lesson in leadership, I don’t know what is.
  • The moment you go on your first call, all of the time you’ve spent in class and on weekends training is worth it. Words can’t capture the sense of pride and satisfaction you get after going on your first call. Walking a stretcher to the ambulance and being thanked by a patient is pretty amazing. I think that volunteering with the OMFD has confirmed that the Coast Guard is the right service for me.

 

If you have the chance to get an EMT or Firefighter 1 certification, do it. It’ll be one of the best decisions of your life.

 

More about Evan.