Initial Attack Incident Commander: Day 1

I’ve watched Apollo 13 and took notes on duty,respect and integrity; read Ted Putnam’s The Collpapse of Decision Making and Organizational Structure On Storm King Mountain and driven 300 miles, checked into a dirtbag motel, cleaned up the carsickness milk puke my son vomited everywhere in the car last nite and arrived at S200 Initial Attack IC an hour early. It’s a strange ride developing in the wildland.

APOLLO 13, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, 1995, (c) Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

After Day one of S200, I lie in bed with the towel over the lampshade, providing me with enough light to type and read while not waking my son sleeping in the bed next to ours. We went through a lot today: we discussed the differences in the varying leadership styles of Directing, Participating and Delegating( or the ones they talk about in L-280) and used the topic of leadership to focus on Leaders Intent and the big “WHY?”; We passed around multiple versions of Incident Organizers from different agencies and districts, zeroing in on the critical information that all dispatch offices,from state to federal, want to hear and need to know. We went through the IC 4 task book, went through the Risk Management process as found on page one in the IRPG, and talked about how when there isn’t anybody on hand to bounce ideas off, this risk management checklist becomes extremely valuable. We watched multiple videos, including the WFSTAR video “Command Control” and “Situation Awareness”. We watched a video on the Salt Fire and discussed some of those circumstances from the IC4 level, how some of the responsibilities which were overburdening the situational awareness of the leadership could have been delegated down. And to close day one of the class we spent the last 3-4 hours familiarizing ourselves with the size up checklist, the details of one particular incident, and played in a sandbox with fake trees, yarn, and shared ideas.

Since I arrived first to the class today, I had the opportunity to pick our Instructor’s brain for 30 minutes before people trickled in ( a good tactic for obtaining information). He told me S200 was designed for me, people at the IC5 level, and not necessarily people who had already completed a task book and just needed a class to get the thing approved. A relief to know I was in the right place. I got his verbal resume, heard tales of Alaska hotshotin’, Type 3 IC assignments, Fed Crews and state crews and Canada. I got the feeling this guy was exactly where he wanted to be, teaching wildland courses for 9 months out of the year and wandering the country during the summer with a incident management team. He indulged my questions with honest answers: “Where is the best burrito in town?” I asked, “ I don’t want an expensive burrito where I’m paying for the paintings on the wall and the atmosphere. I just want a good burrito that’s in the 6-9 dollar range.” He gave me some clues.

Overall today, there were a multitude of things I believe I would benefit from in developing myself for the future. I’ll list them out.
1. Mutual Aid Agreements: While I know what they are, I’ve never had the privilege of reviewing my forests’ documents on how those relationships are, what is expected and so on.
2. Incident Organizer: My Instructor mentioned how either his engine or someone he knew had the Incident organizer, replete with the unit log and map etc laid out on a like 18’’x24’’ laminated piece of paper, which could be rolled up and put away, and re-used with erasable markers. Cool Idea. And just staying organized in general. It was kind of ironic how we were talking about how important it was to stay organized on an incident while simultaneously being bombarded with dozens of handouts during the class
3. The FEMA Resource Center for ICS forms
4. CAL TOPO
5. Relationships with people on and off forest: establishing working relationships with those people who potentially could be a big help, whether that be someone I may need as a resource advisor, a public information officer, our neighboring districts, rural fire departments, etc.
6. The importance of taking a tactical pause
7. Watching Movies as a way to discuss leadership or building cohesion

This is a quick recap. Tomorrow is day 2.

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