Priest urges Fire Services leadership – See fire officers as humans, not just a regimental number

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Canon Major Ashton Gomez speaks during a service on Wednesday at the All Saints Anglican Church in Port of Spain to make the Fire Service’s 72nd anniversary.Photo by Sureash Cholai

A call has been made to senior fire officers to appreciate their subordinates as humans while understanding the difficulties they encounter on and off the job.

The remarks were made by canon major Fr Ashton Gomez as he delivered his address at a Church service commemorating the parade of colour and the fire service’s 72nd anniversary at the All Saints Anglican Church, Marli Street, Port of Spain, on Wednesday morning.

Referring to the ceremony’s theme of ‘Fanning the flames of dedication,’ Gomez urged fire officers to think carefully about the meaning behind the theme and consider what was the metaphorical fuel for dedication to service.

Fire officers pray during the service on Wednesday at the All Saints Anglican Church in Port of Spain. Photo by Sureash Cholai

He said while officers should dedicate themselves to the duty of helping others, senior officers should also be mindful of how they address and treat their subordinates.

Gomez who is also the chaplain for the defence force said while it was customary for members of the protective services to be introduced using their regimental numbers, it was crucial that leaders also value the person wearing the uniform.

“You’re always looking to introduce someone by their regimental number and when you die, you die as a regimental number.

“Where is the person?

“I’m not saying the numbers are not important but it could never be more important than the person who carried the flame.

“We all have responsibility, but respect is not something that is just given, it is earned.

“When someone says ‘Yes sir’ or ‘Yes ma’am,’ with their lips but are saying ‘Haul your you know what’ in their mind.

“How many of your seniors respond to you when you have an emergency in your heart and your mind that can impede your actions on the job?

“The world is changing and we need to not see people as numbers, but to know that you’re dealing with a person and while it might have been easy in the past to tell someone ‘leave it by the door,’ we know that does not work.”

Gomez said informal exercises to build camradarie and trust among fellow officers was valuable given the dangerous nature of their jobs to reassure them of mutual support.

He said while realistically fire officers and other arms of the protective services could not be fully compensated for the sacrifices they make while on duty, they should see their jobs as more than simply a means of making money.

He noted that in addition to the act of responding to crises and rescuing people, fire officers also played a vital role in providing hope for society while inspiring young people to live a life of selflessness.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Gary Joseph, left, and Depity Chief Fire Officer Andy Hutchinson arrive at the service. Photo by Sureash Cholai

“Flames can be a symbol of hope in a society that is slowly running out of fuel and while we think through and you wear your red and everybody looks good, what is the hope for the next generation?

“Not only of firefighters but the hope that you can instill in a country that is bereft of exemplars on how to live?

“I know of many who play football and encourage the youths to become better citizens.

“I know of them who dress up like Santa Claus to go and make a child happy and those things should not be taken away because you are a part of the community whether you want to believe it or not, they appreciate the work that you do.”