Monday, June 23, 2014


By Mark vonAppen

An open letter to those who believe that the job is about anything other than hard work to maintain your edge.  Hope and luck don't keep you safe, your training does. 

A little back story on this one; it started out as 100 sentences that I wrote to my boss.  The self imposed punishment essay read, "I will never try to ensure the quality of fire department training again."

We had a closed door meeting a little while later.


To whom it may concern,

We will offer no remorse for having a high standard of performance for ourselves, our crew, for others in the department, and for being uncompromising in these convictions.  Sometimes we're enthusiastic in sharing our vision.  We will not apologize for the zeal that drives our mission, not to you or anybody else.

Apologies sound like excuses to us.  We are tired of excuses.

Let it be known that we do not wish to participate in any endeavors that are without vision, clear direction, and forethought.  To this end, until the organization pulls itself together we will engage in an informal resistance against the status quo.

This is a stand against MEDIOCRITY.

We will not apologize for the zeal that drives our mission, not to you or anybody else.

We hope that this hollow apology makes you feel better for it is the last one we will tender.  No longer will we be silent and acquiescent when it comes to expressing our convictions.  We will continue on our way of ensuring that greater standards are achieved.  These norms will continue to be those that far exceed the minimum standard of the department.  Our crew has discussed this at great length and we embrace the notion of performing at a higher level.    

Together we stand in this endeavor.  Fools spent from defiance, we will not submit.

We are taking signups for the renaissance of the fire service, some other guys out there are doing it too, all over the nation and the world.  You should think about joining us.  We are putting the service back in the fire service and the fight back in firefighter.  We're not afraid of who we are, or who outsiders think we are.  We know our mission, to us the path is perfectly clear.  Do your job.  Treat People right. Give all out effort.  Have an all in attitude.

Our crew is growing, slowly we are shifting the paradigm. In our fire service we don't have time for distractions. Ours will be a circle of function, not dysfunction.  While others are busy reaching conclusions, we will be reaching for something else.

We will be easy to spot.  We're the ones who stride across the drill grounds or through the emergency scene with a moxie derived from a relentless drive for perfection in the craft.  It is a never-ending course.  If that makes others angry or intimidated, so be it.  A grinding dedication to improvement is our madness.  We will not let our teammates down, nor they us.

What is important to us?  

Staying hungry. 

Our standard is the extraordinary.

If you want to find us you can reach us by radio or find us on the GPS, we're not going to be in quarters very much.  We will be the ones with the tools in our hands and hose in the street.


The Defiant


  1. Mark, you are spot-on with this post, as you have been with your previous ones. I have no shame or fear in saying that I am with you and behind you as one of "The Defiant", because mediocrity has no place in my life as a member of the fire and emergency services family. Keep it going, and KTF, Brother.

  2. Awesome!!! Very motivational.

    1. Matt,

      At the time that this was written I had been told to throttle back on the enthusiasm - it still happens occasionally. When it does, I dust this one off and read it again. Train hard, get dirty, repeat.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading,


  3. Every day better than the rest. No room for mediocrity.

    1. Halo,

      Our standard sounds similar to yours; "Do your job, treat people right, give all out effort, have an all in attitude." Thanks for reading. Stay hungry.


    2. One Hundred and Ten Percent Warrior Mindset. This is a strong lead by example message that is sure to motivate anyone who feels this is not a job but a calling. Von-Appen's no holds barred announcement is heard, understood and acknowledged. HUA!

  4. It must of been divine intervention that I found this post this evening. I too have been told to "lighten up" when it comes to training and expectations. It is Brothers like yourself that remind me that I'm not alone. Thanks for a blog.

  5. This excellent post found me in a timely manner. I sat confused after my Chief told me to "Lower your expectations" as it relates to department training and performance. He told me one day I too will accept good enough as an acceptable destination.

    Your blog renewed my conviction for continual improvement. Thanks brother, keep doing good things!

  6. This Post is def spot on we should stop just accepting the normal and start setting higher goals for ourselves and our Departments, this is a dangerous job and it takes a lot of practice and skill to be at our best, which is what our community that we serve in wants

  7. This is one of my favorite of your blogs. It is a call to action for those who are sleeping and a charge of energy for those already fighting. In this small but growing percentage of FWS's who challenge the weak and lazy who have forgotten why they took the job, it is good to know there are still Firefighters who view it as a calling and will never stop. I will be sharing this article in my class that I am teaching tomorrow at a local college.
    Also, where can I get one of the stickers for my helmet?
    Thanks for all your posts

  8. Great read. Whenever I start to feel as if my drive for prefection isn't worth it, I read one of your blogs and it reminds me I'm not the only one.

    Thank you Mark!

  9. Excellent read. Great to know others out there share the same views.