Alphabet Soup

Tomorrow, the Exercise Director will call EndEx or End of Exercise for this portion of the mission, known as VR 13 – DCRF 1 – Vibrant Response 13 for Defense Consequence Response Force 1. Basically, the training and evaluation of the JTF-CS (see previous posts). The daily missions continued with water purification, mass casualty decontamination, chemical detection and identification, search and rescue, search and extraction from rubble piles and collapsed buildings, transportation of supplies via ground and air and the creation of a civilian relief center. In total over 250 missions will have been completed in about 7 days. A lot was learned by the training audience has occurred which is what we came here to do. Sometime tomorrow, we will start to shift to VR 13 – C2CRE A&B or Vibrant Response 13 for Command and Control for the CBRN Response Elements A and B (yes, an acronym within an acronym). The mission will continue with a new training audience and a new command staff.

I thought a little insight into military speak would be fun – alphabet soup as I call it. Here it is as it sounds with the acronyms attached: ” We need a R-FF (RFF) sent through Jiff-flick(JFLCC) to NorthCom for the crest(CREST) to report to the fob (FOB) in the Joe ah (JOA). They will be establishing a dee see r see(DCRC) as requested in the may toe(MATO) and for an e-med(EMEDS) unit. They however, must wait for the frag-go(FRAGO) to be cut.

In english, this reads like: We need a request for forces(RFF) through the joint forces land component command(JFLCC) to Northern Command for the contingency real estate support team(CREST) to report to the forward operating base(FOB) in the joint operations area(JOA). They will be establishing a displaced civilians relief center(DCRC) as requested in the military assignment task order(MATO) and for an expeditionary medical support unit(EMEDS). They however must wait for the fragmented order(FRAGO) to be cut.

One of our new guys has been compiling a list of these and so far has encountered over 150 of the ones that didn’t make sense to him. The scary thing is that I knew most of them when he asked me. I hope that after 21 days of this two things don’t happen 1) I start talking like this 2) My writing is effected because everything I write now is a lot of alphabet soup.


Tata for now…

Help is on the way

The now confirmed nuclear detonation is starting to take its toll. The evacuation of half a million people has been ordered by the governor and shelters are starting to open. Four military hospitals are in bound and an “emergency room” type facility has already set up. To date, more than 4000 people have been rescued and over 2000 victims have been decontaminated. We started overnight operations last night and will run 24 hours for the next 14 days. Twenty helicopters are moving victims and supplies throughout the area.

We are actually working in Indiana on two bases that are about 60 miles apart. As of last night, 3659 people are assigned in some role to this exercise. We have two daily briefings 7am and 7pm, below is a photo of the start of the 7pm (1900hrs) briefing.

The briefings are for the Commanding General of the 5th Army (3 stars) and his staff. We have been working through the challenges of managing air, land and human resources. The progress is slow for this training event. The other photo is a close up of the title and logo for the event.

On another note, I’m excited to report that  I’ve heard from the editor of the Anthology book that my first short story will be published in. Here’s what she had to say: “I liked the taut pace of Revelation.  From the first few sentences you managed to drop the reader into the middle of the action without making me feel lost — a hard thing to accomplish.  You provided the right number of details to allow the reader to know what was going on but also didn’t elaborate too much, which helped the pacing immensely.  Too many details would have just dragged the story down, and I’m glad you didn’t give in to them.”

Needless to say, I’m very happy and proud to hear these comments. We expect the book to be published by the end of October and will be available in electronic or paperback versions.

More than Indiana

1996 American LaFrance Pumper with fresh paint and a light package.

I’ve have nothing related to my writing or business but this is something that I’m excited to talk about. My work with a local community college has kept me busy for the past few weeks working as we’ve on ordering equipment, hiring instructors and taking delivery of a fire truck for the new fire academy. It has been fun and a lot of work, so I thought that I’d share a photo of our new fire truck. It has been a long time since I purchased a truck, let alone a used one. Just like buying a used car, you never really know what you’ll get. This is a very clean truck and will serve our students well for several years to come.

We have also reviewed a number of applications for both Instructor and technician positions. We’ll have a great cadre of instructors to ensure that the students get a great experience and come out ready to serve their communities.

Tomorrow’s post will be back to the exercise in Indiana, today is a little slow as forces move into the area.








What came first – following or leading?

Do people follow you because they have to or because they are inspired by you? What kind of an example of a follower are you to the people you are leading? These can be very challenging questions for us as leaders because sometimes we really don’t know if we are inspiring or not. Your people will send you small signals about your leadership. A positive signal might be if people come to see you when you unexpectedly walk into a room. Even more importantly, do you go to them on “their turf” or must they always come and see you? As the leader, when you go to see them in their territory, it puts you on level ground with them, which should put them at ease. Do you give people room to do their work or explore alternative ways to get the job done? Fostering an atmosphere of innovation by allowing people time to explore and be creative will pay dividends in morale and may produce efficiencies or new products.

What kind of follower are you? Do you demand from those you lead something you won’t give as a follower yourself? What message does that send? We should always try to lead by setting a good example. Being a leader isn’t easy because it requires that we not only lead but that we follow too!

Matthew 4:19 – “Come, follow me,“ Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower – he fulfilled the prophets, followed the commandments and His Father’s will with perfection. We will never be perfect but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men” we know it is his way of saying: I will give you the tools, the strength, the time, the understanding, the guidance and an example to follow so that you, my disciples, will lead people to me. Despite His followers set backs, Jesus was always there to pick them up, help them understand and lead another day. How are you doing with this? Are you a fisher of men? The Lord has blessed you by putting you in a leadership position, remember what Jesus did, how he lead, and put that to good work.

So, you’re a writer?

I might be on to something here. So far I have been published in two text books and I am under contract for two more. Technical writing is fairly easy because it is, well, technical. I enjoy the process of creative writing and look forward to spending more time doing that. I just heard that I’ll have an article that I wrote printed in Fire Chief magazine this August. I wrote about the military’s ability to respond to natural and man made disasters. It will be cool to see my name in print for a magazine with tens of thousands of readers.

I also submitted my first short story for consideration in a collection of short stories in an Anthology. The West Valley Writers accepted my work and we will be publishing it this summer. It’s a little story that I started here about the hired killer John and his “girl friend” who is not what he thought she was. It will be available on Amazon and Nook but look for more on that.

My book is moving slowly but I do have some interest by the publisher of Guideposts. I hope to be ready for editing later this year.

What have you been up to?

I started this blog experience as a way of not only promoting/polishing my writing but as a tool to keep up with people about some of the interesting things that I get involved in. That was 6 months ago, where did the time go? To say I’ve been busier than a one armed paper hanger would be be an understatement. Since my trip to Washington I’ve been to McAlester, Oklahoma and the Western Carribean. I’ve written a number of articles for the International Fire Chiefs and worked on a safety audit of a local fire district. I’ve also taught several classes for newly promoted or aspiring Battalion Chiefs. The City council is always busy at this time of year as we worked on completing a budget for the up coming year, totaling $311 million.

Let’s talk about Oklahoma. About 19 of us from Army North and ATEC Consultants spent six days in McAlester OK training the men and women of the 370th and 329th Chemical Battalions from Florida and Texas respectively. The exercise was requested by the Battalion Commander to give his soldiers an opportunity to learn more about chemical detection and mass casualty decontamination. Our job was to give them a realistic experience and offer training suggestions. There are two components to a Chemical Battalion – Decontamination (Decon)  and Reconnaissance (Recon). The Decon group simulated that a chemical plant was damaged by a tornado with several hundred people becoming contaminated. The Recon group worked in the simulated effected plant and needed to find the cause for what was making several people sick. We really challenged the companies and gave them something to think about for the future. After we completed the exercise we had time to visit the OKC Bombing Memorial the afternoon before we left. The buildings are still damaged to remind us what happened that day.





Bookended by two black granite walls, the reflecting pool makes for a nice memorial. One wall represents the time before the blast and the other is after the blast. The chairs are for those killed and the floors that they were on. It was very moving to say the least.

Enough for today, I’ll follow up with a short story about our trip to the Western Carribean.


Mr Stipp goes to Washington

I returned last night from a few days in Washington DC at the National League of Cities Annual Conference. City Leaders (I can’t believe that title includes me) from around the country come together to discuss issues facing cities and towns and to take advantage of being in DC to “lobby” our Congressmen. I have been appointed to the National Public Safety and Crime Prevention Advocacy Committee of the NLC. We attended a half-day municipal leadership training session that was awesome. I really gained a lot of perspective about being on a national committee.

Our committee meeting really showed me that we are lucky in our community not to have the types of problems that others do. I also learned that we have taken being politically correct to an incredibly crazy level. I heard a director from the Bureau of Justice Administration talk about needing to help “those that have a conflict with the criminal justice system”. WHAT! I thought that they were actually criminals or accused persons. Having a conflict sounds like a disagreement. Then I remembered that we can’t call Dry-Erase boards “white boards” any more or Easel Pads “flip-charts” or Chalk boards “black boards” but that its OKAY to call white tank top undershirts “wife beaters” but not okay to call them “deago tees”. I digress…

My trip to DC ended in a meeting with Senators John McCain and John Kyl. The few of us from Arizona that were there had about an hour with them in an Q and A session after getting our pictures taken and shaking their hands. I must admit that it was a great experience and that they were pretty straight forward in answering our questions. While they still don’t feel like much will get done in these next few months, they weren’t pointing fingers either.

My next trip is to Ft. McAllister in Oklahoma for an Army exercise, that should make for some interesting reading after I return.

Managing Change

The other day I was told that my article about managing change was going to be featured on the International Association of Fire Chiefs website as an example of the type of information available on the subscription service that I write for. The staff at the IAFC told me that they have been receiving a number of comments about this specific article and the the Director had even said something about it. The funny thing about managing change is that we’ve been talking about it since the early 90’s; funny how history repeats itself. Here is the link, I hope you enjoy it!

Success vs. Significance

I was fortunate in my career to have a number of people who helped me along the way. Sometimes they were just there to listen and other times they offered really sound advice that helped guide me in the right direction. Having worked in three states, in three different regions, I have met some great people along the way but one person comes to mind – Randy Bruegman. Randy is now the fire chief of Anaheim CA. and I met him almost 20 years ago. He was always there with great career advice and really helped me deal with my retirement when it abruptly occurred. Following his term as the President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Randy started speaking nationally about the concept of being successful or being significant.

His premise is that some people define success as reaching the top position in their industry, making a ton of money, have a nice house or success can simply mean not having controversy in your life. He then describes what being significant might look like: being a mentor, having an impact on those around you, doing things for others with no expectations in return or simply being significant to others. Most of us in the fire service like to think that we are selfless people and that working in this profession is what makes us significant. Sure, we do get to help people “on the worst day of their lives” which IS significant to them, but would we do it if we weren’t getting paid?

You can go through your whole career without ever knowing if you were significant to someone besides your patients or fire victims. I was given a great gift in these past few weeks from people who wanted to tell me how much I helped them. I heard from the supervisor of one fire officer that I had trained, who was glowing about what a great leader and manager this person was. While he didn’t give me all of the credit, (I wouldn’t have taken it anyway) he wanted to know what I was emphasizing to the young officers and would I be willing to mentor him as he looks at a future promotion. Another call came from someone who I just met over the summer. The military exercises that I participate in put me in touch with people from all over the country. My new friend called me to ask for advice about taking a position in another state. We met while working at the same command post but he was given my name by someone who knew me really well. We spend the better part of two hours on the phone as he prepared for his final interview. He called to let me know he was offered the job and was getting ready to start. He couldn’t have been more appreciative of my advice.

My point here is this: Are you being successful or significant to those that you work with? What you accomplish in your work will pale in comparison to what you help someone accomplish. People find great satisfaction in helping others; I know that I did.

Can you really do more with less?

I mentioned earlier this week that I submitted an article on automatic aid to the International Association of Fire Chiefs. For my non-fire service readers, automatic aid is when two or more fire departments respond to emergencies in each others communities without having to be specially requested. It is an awesome concept in the Phoenix Valley where regardless of the name on the truck, if you need help, the closest truck will be there. Talk about customer service! All 26 agencies participate equally protecting 3.9 million people in 2,036 square miles.

I start to get a little heart burn when local government starts using the phrase “do more with less”. I’m finding out pretty quickly that it simply isn’t possible. You can do less with less or you can do what you did but not as well with less but not more. The federal government shows us that as they continue to trim billions of dollars we, the average citizens,  don’t really see or feel it. The bigger you get the less efficient you are. Think about your waist line, the bigger you get the less you can do without a little strain. You can also starve yourself resulting in malnutrition and simply move through your day not being exceptionally productive and just getting by. A number of federal agencies have duplicated efforts to serve the same population need but local government is, by its nature, not able to grow that big or be that inefficient. Elected Officials at the local level hold the purse strings a little tighter than congress does – thank God!

My point is this, we can’t do more with less and it may be time for the fire service to stop pretending that they can. Automatic aid can help fill the gaps on emergencies but can we do more together on other levels? Can we partner in administrative functions? If we can’t, perhaps its time to start talking about what we can’t do anymore because we have less instead of trying to hold on to what we have always done. There are always efficiencies to be found, that was all done a couple of years ago. Now we’re faced with trying to sustain a 40″ waist on a 32″ budget; you can only suck it in for so long before you blow the button off and kill someone.