Part of a series on my participation in the Putnam County Leadership Academy.
In the two-and-a-half years since I started here at the Banner Graphic, I have covered my fair share of fires and car crashes beyond compiling the fire runs for the scanner.
I have reported on some of them after the fact. But I've been up close and personal for the others. Anyone remember the chlorine leak in Bainbridge back in December 2018?
I can't forget just how dangerous it was for our firefighters and police, not to mention for the residents who had to be evacuated. I can still feel the urgency -- that's the thing about being in this news business. Sometimes you've got to get the story online now.
Then I can remember being on the scene of a house fire in Van Bibber Lake a week-and-a-half ago; how I noticed the ash on one firefighter's face and on his gear. That image has stuck with me; it was evidence as to what they will endure to save lives.
The same toll is put on our law enforcement as well. They also have to make life-or-death decisions, with many of them more difficult than we might give due credit for.
The PCLA 2020 group had a short session last Wednesday, with the main discussion being about conflict resolution. However, we got the opportunity to hear from both Putnam County Sheriff Scott Stockton and Greencastle firefighter Jake Armstrong.
Stockton said that the Putnam County Sheriff's Office is not just committed to the protection of life and property. Rather than to strictly punish, the main objective is to educate and help rehabilitate offenders into becoming more productive individuals. This can mean helping them get their GED or getting them through drug treatment.
The sheriff pointed out that the community's support for law enforcement is crucial. The same can be said for supporting all of our firefighters -- both career and volunteer.
It should be noted here that the Greencastle Fire Department is the only career fire department in Putnam County. This means that we greatly rely on our volunteer firefighters' giving of themselves and their time away from their families and friends.
A member of both the Greencastle and Russellville fire departments, Armstrong told us that the "little things" make a difference. Some of those things -- like professional support and promoting a cohesive team -- will remain essential.
Armstrong gave an idea about how grueling his profession is. The amount of training and fitness required is unreal. The thing is that many departments will have to depend on younger volunteers -- and he was candid about there not being a lot of money in it.
Ultimately, it's about the commitment and focus of each individual on the team to the task before him. They would tell you that theirs is a brotherhood. They will have each other's backs -- like they would have ours.
I remember a breakfast GFD held for its retirees in September 2018. Assistant Chief Rob Frank let me see just how heavy a firefighter's jacket is, and they all recounted stories about past runs. This hospitality reflected how they are our neighbors too.
"We say it comes in threes," Armstrong said about how tragedies and complications might compound. It is still his passion that keeps him going stronger as a firefighter.