08/15/13 247 W - + 3 - 1 Hazing, Harassment, Lawsuits, Metrics

Reading this Fire Law blog posting this morning about a Maryland lawsuit by a former recruit claiming she was illegal hazed, harassed, and forced withdraw from a fire academy. The department and the particulars are named in the posting. More importantly, Curt Varone provides opinion and perspective on the issue, and he opens with the below beloved clip from the movie Full Metal Jacket. He then asks

"How many fire instructors out there – with the absolute best of intentions – tend to emulate Sergeant Hartman in how they treat new recruits?" He then deconstructs those behaviors from a legal perspective, and how problematic they are if challenged in a court of law. 

My reaction to the story (and thus my posted comment) is a high-level slash historical one (as such treatment of recruits is presumably the exception versus the rule in the nation's fire service):

I've long asked about metrics regarding hazing and harassment. You know, the science behind the question "how's that working out for you?" Those behaviors (presumably) added value at some point in the history of the fire service and other institutions. (Because we know they wouldn't have been adopted otherwise… right?) Are they still value-adds? Yeah, great question to ask about a lot of things still done because they're still done.

Does hazing and harassment (still) work? Can you prove it? And if you can't, why are you still doing it?

Just found this post. The comparisons with military training are pretty self evident since the fire service models itself as a paramilitary organization, utilizing a similar rank structure and the dangers of the profession are similar to those of military service. Of course a huge difference is the legal obligation of service in the military and the comparatively shorter time to train larger numbers of recruits necessitate the military training style. A key difference with fire recruits is they are aspiring civilian municipal employees and under no UCMJ. They are also not typically young kids freshly graduated high school (usually). But then, firefighters don’t hold the same type of job that, say, an HR person in the personnel office where their biggest risk is carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Fire Law blog seems to indicate pretty clearly that the training cadre went overboard, but in general I don’t see a problem with some…. modified… “drill instructing.” The main purpose is to break down the recruits sense of individualism so that they will understand how critical team work is in the military. The ability to function well as a team means a greater chance of survival and mission accomplishment in combat. That misery of basic tng. and subsequent accomplishment of training tasks as a team fosters close relationships that last a lifetime. Many would say they had a battle buddy in basic who they consider a brother, more so sometimes than blood relatives. As a combat vet, I can attest to the small comfort knowing that the guy next to you “has your back” even if it means he might die. Things get pretty real when lead starts flying. I’ll take that any day over the dude in the next cubicle trying to stab me in the back for the next promotion. Firefighters also rely on the same type of teamwork on the fire scene. Sorry but this is NOT a “feel good” profession and the weak and unfit are a liability. We owe it to ourselves, or families at home, and the people in dire situations who are counting on us to be at the “top of our game” to ensure the best candidates are chosen. I understand that this isn’t the military and some modifications might be warranted, but the core duty of a recruit academy is to train the most qualified to perform their job and weed out those who can’t hack it. Pretty simple to me. The military method has worked for generations. If you can’t handle a little razzing because you tripped over your foot on a run or otherwise made a slight fool of yourself, how do you think you’ll handle REAL fire is pinning you to the floor??
Bob - 08/19/13 - 23:01

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible on this site until it has been approved by an editor.

To prevent spam we require you to answer this silly question

  (Register your username / Log in)

Hide email:

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.