Lessons learned from my first station captain – my mom

Fire and EMS leaders can serve as a much-needed constant amid the chaos


Growing up, my father had his own fence business that ruled our weekends. He’d wake up my brother and I early, and there was never a set quitting time. Friends and dates would have to wait until the job was done, which many times would happen in the shine of the headlights.

My father taught us what it meant to buckle down and push through when there was work that needed to be done. It was a lesson that I’ve put to good use during my time as a firefighter.

But as a fire officer, it was my mother who taught me a lesson I use every day: the importance of being available.

Ben Thompson poses with his first station caption, his mom.
Ben Thompson poses with his first station caption, his mom.

Sacrifices for the goals of others

My childhood was a good one. As the world turns, I continue to realize just how lucky I was.

My parents married young and pretty soon they had three young children to feed. Getting by was a struggle and had they not worked as a team, I doubt we would have had it so good. 

Dad was always out there pushing his body to bring home a paycheck. This left mom with a whole lot of work to do at home.

She didn’t baby us. In the mornings, she’d drag us out of bed by our toes so we’d be up and ready for the school bus.

But after she had made sure that the three of us kids were fed, clothed and not stinking to high heaven, she hardly ever took the time to sit down and relax. Each and every day, she sacrificed her own time for the sake of ferrying each of us toward our own goals.

Science projects, basketball practice, cheerleading. Mom didn’t just do the bare minimum. For every challenge we faced, she made sure we had what we needed and then supported us through to the very end.

Never sit down

A crew of EMTs, paramedics or firefighters is very much a family. And the shift or company officer, at times, has to serve in a parental role. We are all familiar with the role we have out on scene, leading the crew through hard times, but we cannot neglect what has to be done back at the station.

I’m not talking about making sure our chores are done. What I mean is using all the little time in between to make sure our crew, our family, is growing in the right direction. And the only way to do that as a leader is to do like my mom did and never sit down.

Whether it is sacrificing much-needed rest time in order to help someone study for the National Registry exam, or just sitting on the bumper of the rig to be an ear for a person to vent, by always being available to our members, we can serve as a much-needed constant in the chaos.

Looking back on my own career, I am forever indebted to those who always left the door to the officer’s quarters open.

But looking back on my life, I owe much more to my mom. She’d have made a great station captain.

I’m sure response times in the middle of the night would improve if my crew knew she was coming for their toes.

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