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October 8, 2005
No More Juztahs!
By Michael Stanley
 
As I have traveled the nation, I have encountered a loathsome creature, the Juztah.  The Juztah walks amongst us in the hallowed halls of our fire stations.  It is a dark and gloomy beast that scares away hope!

What is this Juztah?  Why have we not seen this fanged ferocity on Animal Planet?  What does it look like?  What does it eat?

These are all valid questions, Brothers and Sisters of the Fire Service.  In short, what the Juztah looks like is US!  All too often, when I talk to firefighters across the country, they tell me that they are a Juztah.  I hear things like, “I am just a firefighter” or, “I am just a newbie” or even “I am just an EMT.”  

 Many times, this statement follows a discussion on how they can impact the organization.  It is heart-wrenching to me to see the dark shadow of the Juztah, because the Juztah feeds on hopes, ambitions and talents of firefighters everywhere.  
 In the American Fire Service we deliberately recruit, cultivate and retain some of the best people on earth.  To allow them to cower behind the cloak of the Juztah is a waste of their talents.  It is imperative that every member of the team realize their value to the organization.  Every member of the department from the newest probationary firefighter to the chief must share in the vision and feel that they have a purpose.  

 I am reminded of the story of two men working in a rock quarry under the hot sun.  Each one is toiling to swing a sledge hammer into a boulder.  When the first man is asked what he is doing, his reply is, “I’m busting up this rock!”  When the second man is approached he says, “I am part of a team that is building a cathedral!”  You see the first fellow feels he is just a rock breaker.  The second has vision and is part of a team.  Clearly, he has purpose.  

So how do we abolish the Juztah?  First, through our own self-discipline, no longer will we refer to ourselves in this manner.  Also, we must stop saying it about others.  Once we have accomplished this, then we will stop allowing others to refer to themselves this way.  When we hear it come from their mouth, this provides us with a teachable opportunity.  We all have a duty to reinforce the value of our firefighters, particularly, if we are in a formal leadership position within the department.  Remember the famous author John Donne’s statement that “No one is an island entire of itself…”  if they are a Juztah, it hurts us all.

Once we all decide to banish the Juztah we will see a cultural shift within our departments.  It is an awesome concept of what could be achieved when all of our members share in the belief that we are building a cathedral instead of breaking up rocks!  It start’s today, THERE ARE NO MORE JUZTAHS!
 

MICHAEL STANLEY has been in emergency services since 1993, with the Aurora (CO) Fire Department since 1996. Currently, he is a truck company lieutenant and a member of the Technical Rescue Team. He also has served as a firefighter, paramedic, educator and hazardous materials team member with the department. He possesses an associates degree in fire science technology and another in emergency medical services.  Also, Mike has completed a bachelor of science degree in organizational leadership for emergency services and is working towards a masters of public administration.  As a member of On the Job Emergency Services Training, he lectures regionally, nationally and internationally about a variety of topics that include weapons of mass destruction, leadership and fire suppression to emergency responders.  Mike can be reached at MStanley@onthejobest.com