Leadership Institute Reflections

Bluffton Township Fire

What LI means to me……it gave me an in-depth look into the inner workings of the Association. It made me realize what all I had in terms of benefits through the association and how hard the association works to better the state fire service as a whole. LI gave me a network of friends and colleagues that I would never have had. LI gave me a better appreciation for my own department, which I may have taken for granted prior to the program. It opened up opportunities to get involved with the association at different levels. -Rick Cramer, Deputy Chief

Clarendon County Fire

The LI has been one of the most amazing experiences of my career. It’s an involved, hands-on approach to educating current fire service members on South Carolina’s fire service today as well as learning about the history of the S.C. fire service. It has had a huge impact on my career. The networking opportunities that come with the LI are unlimited and the relationships you form will last a lifetime. The LI is very educational and brings light to the most current issues of the S.C. fire service while offering opportunities to work with others in the state to offer solutions for these problems to improve the fire service as a whole. I would highly recommend applying for and committing to this opportunity if you are interested in expanding your knowledge of the fire service. It offers professional development and networking opportunities that are second to none. It is an all-inclusive program and in the end, you will come out as a better person, firefighter, and leader. -Jessica Weinberg 

Conway Fire

As a Fire Chief I was excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Leadership Institute, but I was hesitant because I felt it would possibly be geared more towards rising chief officers. I was correct in that the program is geared towards rising chief officers, but I was wrong in that I would not benefit from the program. I have found the program to be rewarding and educational. The networking opportunities have been incredible, and I have learned a tremendous amount throughout the program. I highly recommend the program to rising chief officers, but I encourage more Fire Chiefs to take advantage of the program as well. - Phillip L. Hendrick, Jr. , Fire Chief  

Dorchester County Fire

The year I spent in the Leadership Institute was no doubt one of the single most influential times in my career with the fire service. I learned so much about the fire service in our state that I never would have been exposed to had I not participated in LI. The great differences in the sizes and make-up of the fire departments were simply astounding to me. We visited career fire departments with multi-million dollar operating budgets and hundreds of members who seem to have all of the newest and coolest equipment. And on the other side of the spectrum, we visited volunteer fire departments with basically no operating budgets, purchasing fuel for the apparatus out of chicken dinner fundraisers, and with less than ten members. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least, and one that I brought back to our department members so that they could gain a little perspective on how blessed our department really is. Participating in the Leadership Institute also allowed me to gain insight into how hard the Association works for all of the members. Having spent many years in the fire service, my dealings with the Association typically meant preparing our 1% Fund Budget, sending in expenditure requests, and mailing in the required forms each year to qualify for the funds. I had no idea the depth of the Associations’ involvement in making the fire service better for everyone across the state. I had no clue there were committees of fire service personnel, across the entire rank structure, that were committed to improving the benefits to our members, increasing awareness of firefighters' mental and physical health issues, and working daily with our Legislature to help us to protect our citizens better. I will say that the most important gift that my time in the Leadership Institute has given me is the huge network of friends that was created, not only from our LI class but from all of the classes before my time and since then. Everyone who has been a part of the Leadership Institute knows that anytime they are in need of something, an LI Alumni member is just a phone call or email away. Whether it is a personal need, a sample SOG, or just someone to bounce an idea off of, we are always here for each other no matter what. The Leadership Institute is a true example of what the brotherhood/sisterhood of the fire service is all about. And anyone who is interested in gaining a better understanding of the fire service world we live in should jump at the chance to be a member. -Malcolm K. Burns II, Deputy Chief

Gaffney Fire

After learning about The Leadership Institute I started asking questions and thought this might be fun let's fill out an application and see what happens. I received my letter that I was excepted and the year started. I learned what our great Association really provides to all of our firefighters, volunteers and their careers. Not only did the program teach me so much about our state's fire service it also introduced me to so many fire professionals across this state that I can could on when I have issues at my department. It is a one-of-kind program and I recommend it to anyone who inspires to be a leader in the fire service locally or for our state. -James V. Caggiano, Fire Chief

Georgetown County Fire/EMS

The South Carolina Firefighter’s Association has an amazing opportunity as found in the Leadership Institute program. This program is very interactive and will serve as beneficial from the youngest members of the association to those in the highest levels of leadership and experience. Throughout the program a participant will find themselves exploring all aspects of the fire service in South Carolina from the SCSFA and what the association itself does for our members, opportunities to explore political considerations and speak with our state representatives, seeing many of the incredible departments throughout the state, meeting with and hearing incredible speakers, and learning a wealth of information that can be applied to any department within the state. The networking and problem resolution that can be found with your peers in the program, as well as contacts, met along the way, can bring a great deal of change within our own departments while also helping others who may be experiencing the same things.

The opportunity to participate in Leadership Institute is something that should not be seen as just signing up for a simple class. This course will challenge you, make you think differently about yourself as both a firefighter and leader within the state, encourage research on trending and new issues, and definitely serves as a remotivation for your career. The bonds that are formed along the way have the potential to remain with you for the duration of your career, as well as the creation of lifelong friendships. I strongly encourage all to consider applying for the Leadership Institute program, this experience is simply life-changing. -Josh Sapp, Master Firefighter / Paramedic  

Greer Fire

Leadership Institute was one of the most rewarding journeys of my fire service career. I feel that it helped me become a more well-rounded firefighter and more passionate leader in the fire service. It showed me just how diverse the fire service is in South Carolina, but it also showed me that departments across the state are faced with many of the same issues. Visiting the various departments throughout the year and going behind the scenes of Fire Rescue, showing you just what the firefighters’ association is all about. This program is a must for anyone wanting to learn about the state's fire service. -Joshua M. Holzheimer, Deputy Chief

Newberry Fire

The Leadership Institute is a first-class program that brings invaluable knowledge to its participants. It introduced me to so many different areas of the fire service and helped me build relationships that will last a lifetime. The program gives a first-hand look into the operation of the SC Firefighter’s Association and all the work that is done on behalf of the firefighters of the State of South Carolina and beyond. I encourage everyone interested to apply; it’s something you’ll never regret or forget. -Ben Bowers, Volunteer Firefighter 

The Leadership Institute program gave me many opportunities to network and learn about many areas of the fire service. From career, combination, and volunteer services throughout our state as well as meeting with members of the State House. I was able to get involved after the LI program with the association and I believe this program gave me a better understanding of what we do for our members. I still reach out to my LI graduates to discuss issues to better our service on a local and state level. This is a great leadership development program for current officers or those who are inspiring to become officers/leaders. -Keith Minick, Fire Chief

Orangeburg County Fire

During my time with the LI16, I was exposed to a vast variety of opportunities that were not seen in my local area. The opportunities I was given were valuable to me as an individual and my organization. The experience with the individual and group projects has certainly prepared me for my new role as Director of Fire Service. The connections I still have today with my fellow (ette) LI16 members have been instrumental as we connect from time to time to help with local issues. The Leadership program is a must for all chief officers. My most memorable event was the experiences associated with the behind the scene planning of the 2016 Fire Rescue Conference. -Teddy Wolfe, Fire Director

Pickens County Emergency Management

I can’t stress enough how Leadership Institute established and helped to grow many professional relationships related to my career. While attending the program, I never imagined that several years later I would be using the knowledge and “friends” as much as I do today. A priceless example of how LI was beneficial was the 2016 Pinnacle Mountain Fire. During this 28 day wildfire, decision-making was intensive, requiring many agencies to work together to extinguish a fire in which South Carolina had never seen before. The historic size and time frame of this incident was a first for South Carolina. Having past knowledge and experiences allowed me to easily work with people, who I had previously met during my year in Leadership Institute. Many aspects of the incident, such as conference calling legislators and other elected officials, were critical to keep the public informed and make proactive decisions. Speaking with these elected officials and passing along the right information was something LI emphasized many times. Today, my LI class continues to share operational guidelines, lessons learned and share ideas for the future. -Pierce Womack III, Deputy Director

St. Andrews Fire

I proudly completed the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association’s Leadership Institute in 2014. The program has had a lasting impact on both my career and personal life. I met many interesting people during my year in the program, and I continue to develop those relationships to this day. The program opened my eyes to the broad expanses of our state’s fire service. I was fortunate to experience many presentations from a wide variety of departments throughout our state. We visited departments both larger and smaller than my own, and I learned from each of them. I heard perspectives from like-minded individuals that provided me with experiences that I would otherwise never have received. While traveling across our state meeting with different departments and political leaders, I learned a great deal about how the operational needs vary throughout the state. I also learned the challenges that many departments face and how they have been able to overcome many of those same challenges. I built lasting relationships with colleagues throughout the state that I continue to call on today. The network established as a part of the Leadership Institute has benefitted both my organization and me. Leadership Institute provided me with many skills that have allowed me to grow as a fire service professional. The program allowed me to broaden my knowledge base and expand my understanding of the fire service as a whole. The South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association’s Leadership Institute is a program worth investing your time in. You will learn from a variety of the state’s leaders from both within the fire service and beyond. You will gain perspective on a variety of topics that will impact you and your department. The program will allow you to build relationships that will help you develop your career in the fire service. -Charles G. Lamoreaux, Fire Chief

Taylors Fire Department

The leadership institute is a first-class program that was so rewarding. The connections I made during my year with LI-19, I still have today. There’s not a day that goes by without someone reaching out needing information (NETWORKING). It gave me so many opportunities to surround myself with professionals throughout the state. From the State House to the large career departments with hundreds of personnel with multi-million dollar budgets to the Volunteer departments with limited equipment and personnel that had very little to operate on. The projects whether it was an individual or a group project the knowledge and information you were able to retain. Being able to help during the Fire Rescue Conference. Going to the Pierce plant in Appleton Wisconsin. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed and learned from being part of the Leadership Institute. I would recommend this year-long program to everyone. Thanks to Ashley and Chief Jones for all your hard work and dedication to the class. -Robert Van Pelt, Deputy Chief

Tyger River Fire

I believe in what the program teaches. It was an amazing opportunity to see the things that work and don’t work in other parts of the state. With that being said I believe that the leadership institute allows for you to step outside of the known within your fire district and your county, and see how other places are forced to operate and provide services without of the support that a lot of us see in different parts of the state. This is also a very rewarding experience to see and learn from a great group of resources such as other fire chiefs, and other fire service members. It is a great networking opportunity for individuals to learn from and network with to learn ideas and see how others in the state experience providing fire service to their areas. -BnC W. Matthew Bullard 

Westview-Fairforest Fire Department

The South Carolina State Firefighters Leadership Institute program is an excellent program for any South Carolina fire service member.  If you have time for a year of commitment, approval from your fire chief, you need to apply for this program.  The networking with other students, staff, and department members from around the state are immeasurable, building relationships for years to come.  The information you learn about the different fire departments across our great state gives you more appreciation of your department.  The leadership skills that you receive over the year will stay with you throughout your career.  So, have you thought about applying for the Leadership Institute Program, now’s the time! -Tracy Williams, Assistant Chief