Green Beret Leadership Lessons for the Fire Service


“It’s not the Special Forces, man. Temper your expectations.”

That was the warning I heard from several of my friends—both military and firefighters—when I left the Army and opted for a career in the fire service. Their words carried a fatalistic sense that I would be frustrated and underwhelmed. It spoke to a belief that the fire service was less intense or leadership driven than the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, where I had spent my formative years during the war on terror.

Sitting here, several years later as a fire lieutenant at a major metropolitan department, I reject this sentiment. Yes, Green Berets and other special operators are elite. We’re well funded and highly trained, and there’s no better force to send into the fight against our nation’s enemies. However, what makes Special Forces so “special” isn’t the funding of the equipment or the designator. It’s a commitment to the fundamentals, reinforced by great leaders who leverage the strengths of their teams to accomplish the task at hand. I’ve now had the privilege of watching that leadership in action in the fire service and can attest that some of the best leaders I’ve met are not just Green Berets, but are also firefighters, senior men, and company officers.