An incredible amount of things have happened for me in the past seven years, as I am sure an equally incredible amount has happened to all of you. Seven years is no small amount of time, and an odd amount of time to bring up. I bring it up because January 2010 was when I started my journey towards becoming a firefighter.
Now I know I have written a lot about the Coast Guard and fire department lately, but I don’t think I have quite painted a clear picture of how I got here. I could say something really cheesy like, blood, sweat, and tears have gotten me here (which is partly true) but that really does not paint the true picture.
I was in Colorado on a bike ride in October of 2009 when I called my dad and then my mom to let them know that I had decided to return home after the fall semester and begin pursuing a career in the fire service. They were utterly shocked needless to say, and had many questions about the decision. I had a perfectly laid out plan. Transfer to North Shore Community College, start the fire academy, and get my EMT, all at the same time. Cake walk!
Well it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it surely wasn’t easy. I would commute down from West Newbury to Fall River (about two to two and a half hours) every Monday and Wednesday evening. Classes were from 6-10. The academy was also every other Saturday for 8 hours. I’d then go from Fall River to my dad’s in Winthrop, spend the night and then head to North Shore in the morning to go to classes every Tuesday and Thursday. I would then crush homework and what not before I would go to my EMT class at North Shore from 6-10, to then go back to West Newbury to top off my SCBA tanks, wash my gear, and re-pack my bags. Repeat that for a semester and boom I was up and running.
That was part one of my plan. I continued classes throughout summer to expedite getting my Associates. I took all my exams for my EMT that summer of 2010 as well and certified as an EMT-B for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I then took all my Fire Fighter I/II exams and received that certification in the fall.
All in all I felt like I was really making huge strides towards my career. I started dispatching part-time for West Newbury, thrusting myself into the public safety sector more and more trying my network as much as possible to area departments and get my name out there.
Then I learned about how hard it was to get hired in Massachusetts for any public safety job. It was so incredibly competitive and took an immense amount of time and planning to make it all work out. Massachusetts is a civil service state and gives preference to veterans, and affirmative action is still very much in play in the state. As a white male, who didn’t know another language, and not a veteran, I was never going to get hired on any department. I was at a disadvantage. That was ok by me. I had another plan to get to the top of any list. Become a veteran.
I had always wanted to serve this nation, and here was my opportunity to articulate a great reason to join the military to my parents. As I eluded to in an earlier post, neither one of them have any idea how to navigate the fire service, or the hiring process. Luckily I had a great friend and mentor showing me the way. He put me in touch with his friend in late 2010, who was a Coast Guard recruiter, and we went back and forth for about a year before I finally decided to join the military. I was on track to finish my degree at the end of 2011, and that was when I was going to hop on a flight out of Portland, ME to head to Cape May, New Jersey.
Luckily for me, there was a hiccup with construction down in Cape May at the clinic which delayed me leaving for boot camp until January 3rd 2012. I was lucky enough to spend the holidays with my family before embarking on a completely new adventure. My stories of the Coast Guard are throughout the blog, but here you can find the beginning of my adventure with the Coast Guard when I left for boot camp.
Five more years would go by before finally reaching the goal that set out on in early 2010.