Not everyone can say they have set out on three different career paths before finally settling on one for the duration. This author is one who can, having started out as a Navy SEAL for four years before moving over to the Central Intelligence Agency for seven, and then settling into the fire service as the place in which to set my roots.
There are many reasons why people make changes in their professional lives. We are not concerned with the why for now. Suffice it to say that you — the reader — are thinking of leaving your active duty military service, for whatever reason. You might be wondering what comes next. You have a ton of options, given that the military taught you things that are valuable in a number of service, trade, and professional positions.
I would like to suggest that you consider joining the fire service, and here’s why:
A Clear and Defined Mission
You will never show up for shift at a fire station and wonder if your job is important, or what exactly is expected of you that day. Your job is to save lives, protect property, and stabilize dangerous incidents. Someone is going to call 911 because they are in trouble and they need you. Their house might be on fire. They might see someone swept away in a flooded creek. They might be about to have a baby on the side of a highway. They need you. It is as simple as that.
You will never wonder why you are there. You will always know what is expected of you. You will always know your job, and why it matters. That is a pretty great attribute to have in a job, if you ask me.
A Unified Team
Not only will you know why you are there doing what you do, but everyone you work with will also have the same sense of purpose, and drive to do the job. They will all see themselves and you as part of the team, whose job it is to save lives, protect property, and stabilize incidents — and keep each other alive in the process.
A fire station and its crew (or crews) is a team, just like your platoon or fire team was/is. The same dynamics come into play, the same sense of brother and sisterhood prevails. You eat, sleep, live, play, and fight fire together. It is a beautiful thing.
A Sense of Fulfillment
When you and your crew extinguish that particularly tough house fire, deliver that baby on the side of the road, or grab that victim from the third floor window of the burning apartment building, I promise you your sense of fulfillment will rival anything you ever felt in the military. The mission is different, sure, but no less fulfilling. You will hear the “thank you’s” of your neighbors, you will see the depth of gratitude in the eyes of those you helped, and you will know you made a difference for those who needed you. It is a great feeling.
A Chance to Serve Your Neighbors
You served — or, are serving — your country and you have been thanked for that service probably more times than you are comfortable hearing. Do you ever wonder if those thanking you have a real sense of what it is you have done on their behalf? We have all been there.
Well, when you work in and serve your local community as a firefighter, they will know what it is you have done for them. It is immediate. It is often life saving. They see your sacrifice and your service, up close and personal. There is no higher honor than being trusted with that responsibility. It is as if they have chosen you as worthy to come when they need help, often in extreme circumstances. That feeling of service will lift you up daily, I promise you.
A Stable and Diverse Career Path
Put aside the job fulfillment and sense of purpose and service, and the fire service is also a stable job, with decent pay and better benefits, often including affordable health insurance and a defined benefit pension. Those are rarities in today’s world and should not be overlooked. You will have chances for advancement (if you want them), all the way up the career ladder. Or you can remain a firefighter, if you wish, and never progress beyond that. It is up to you. It has all the flexibility and opportunities for advancement that you might want. That is worth keeping in mind.
A Career that is More Fun than Work
Finally, put aside all the other stuff I mentioned and consider this: I can say with absolute certainty and veracity that I have had more fun in the fire service, on a daily basis, than I have actually had to do what I consider “work.”
Yes, on plenty of occasions the fun was experienced while working, and sure, there are times when the job sucks (getting thrown up on, or having to do paperwork), but on balance, you will find yourself having fun, making jokes, enjoying the company of your fellow crew mates, and simply basking in the good times of the job more than you will think you are actually “working.”
In any job, that is really saying something. So, come on over. Make the move from green to red. You won’t regret it.