The Perfect Company Officer

This is a post for you to voice your concerns and ideas on what the “perfect” company officer is or should be.  Always a hot topic, I believe that the company officer drives the department. Sure, the upper brass can make things difficult or better, but the company officer is with his crew every shift, out on the streets really making a difference, or not.

In today’s fire service we are a jack of all trades. Firefighter, rescue technician, fire prevention advocate, plumber, electrician, odor sniffer and so on.  But, some of the most important aspects of that position are forgotten or just not cared about.

Our company officers have the ability to greatly influence the direction of the firefighters and the organization.  If you have an officer that is positive, trains frequently and is engaged in the job, his people will likely follow suit.

However, if your officer dislikes training, PR, and getting out of the recliner, his people will likely follow suit.  They have a great deal of influence. I have personally seen the trainsition a firefighter made going from a positive officer and crew to a captain that just doesn’t give shit.

What are the attributes of your ideal company officer?

Tell us about some great experiences and not so great experiences?

What words of wisdom have been passed on to you that have really “stuck” in regards to the company officer position?

In my mind it boils down to this; if an officer is not willing to or does not continaually improve himself as an individual and leader and firefighter, he will never be able to improve his crew. He just wont have the respect and credibility to facilitate that improvement. If it isn’t important to him, it wont be important to the crew.

Train hard and lead effectively.


  • Randy Sanders says:

    I agree 100%. The company officer is the glue of the department he represents. Training is always important at any level but never more so than at the company officer level. He has new people coming in under him, veterans around him and if he aspired to, the task of learning for the positions above him. The best advice I have been given is to learn as much as possible and always be a “student of the fire service”.

  • Mike Morton says:

    There’s a lot to being a modern company officer, and no way I know of to mention it all. But when we give classes to new officers, there are a few things I like to mention as worth considering…

    (1) Take care of your crew. To me, this is the golden rule of being a good officer. Taking care of them means training them, protecting them, representing them, preparing them for the future, disciplining them…anything that serves to make them better today and tomorrow.

    (2) Earn, grow and maintain respect as an individual, a company, a department and a fire service. Like it or not, we are in the business of dealing with people all the time. And to do this with any sort of effectiveness we have to treat people right, set a good example and push ourselves to be the best.

    (3) Remember that there is never a time when we’ve done enough. No matter how well we our our personnel do something, there is always a way to improve. No matter what success we have, there is a chance to do it better next time. We can’t win ‘em all, and not everybody gets saved, but if we keep in our minds and impress to those around us that every experience is a learning opportunity, we’ll see a difference.

    (4) You’re in the middle — don’t forget where you came from, but learn to see the big picture too. Effective leaders understand the power of perspective and how to use it. Sometimes we must sell an idea to our crews; sometimes we must remind the chiefs of how it “really” is on the floor. And sometimes we’ve gotta bring them all together. It’s a challenge — but knowing how others see an issue goes a long way.

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Jason Hoevelmann

Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department, and a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County.
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Great read Jason. I liken this issue to the recent unfortunate events in Kentucky in which a firefighter was killed and another, his mother, seriously injured when struck at the scene of a car fire. The response to the tragedy was for the fire department to immediately institute a complete shut-down policy of any incident…
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Well written Jason; nice job. Bill Carey
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