Monday, October 22, 2012


My name is Jeremy Maxey I am a 32 year old Captain at the Pontotoc Fire Department in Pontotoc Mississippi. Six months ago I signed up for Smoke Diver at the Mississippi State Fire academy. Since then my life has been consumed with this and next week it is finely here, all the crazy workouts and long hours in the turnouts are about to be put to use. Smoke Diver is one of the elite programs you can go through in the fire service. It really is a week of hell in your gear and if you make it through you are considered a bad ass in the fire service and in Mississippi you can walk on the grass at the academy. It is designed to push you to your physical and mental limits,once you get there it pushes you even further just to see if you can hold it together. Officials say it is to further train you for more advanced situations in the fire service. Lets start with the workouts and getting ready...Crossfit is a great exercise program/lifestyle to do to prepare for this. P90x is also a good starter but you will have to be able to do two workouts back to back with little problems. I have been doing crossfit for about a year and it has made me a lot stronger and faster, it has also help build endurance. One thing I wish I did prior to Smoke Diver week was spend more time in my turnouts. That was the one thing that I could not get use to in a weeks time. Not being able to take my jacket off after each evolution . I spent a majority of every shift day in turnouts but as soon as I got done doing something strenuous I at least unzipped my jacket and I always took off my air pack (that wont fly Smoke Diver week). Spend as much time in your turnouts as possible and don't take them off. I did many workouts and exercises on my off days in my turnouts and that helped get familiar with my turnouts and pack. There are certain evolutions that you know you are going to do and that you can practice at your station, home, gym...PRACTICE THEM. It would be STUPID to fail out on the turnout drill, axe chops, evac-walk, swiss seat or hot bottle swap, you can practice those drills everyday. You definitely want to work on the evac-walk it IS hard but you can make easy on your self if you practice. One thing you can't get use to is the heat. If you have access to a heat house get in it and get in it as much as you can. Pontotoc does not have a heat house but a BC at Tupelo FD helped me out and let me train with his guys. I did not do a strict diet I just ate healthy and cut out most sugar. I did try to drink only water and milk (except the morning cup of coffee). Two weeks before I drank only water, Gatorade and wal mart pedialite and carb-loaded. If you drink alcohol and or beer cut it out of your diet for about a month before you go. It will make a huge difference on your recovery and your ability to maintain water in your body. The Sunday I left for the Academy I was a nervous wreck. All I had on my mind was Smoke Divers and failing out. I did not want to come home without that patch so I made a slogan and I said it at least 1 million times a day and it helped "The only way I am going home is with a patch or in an ambulance"(went home with the patch). When I got to the academy there were four classes going on ARFF, 1001 at three weeks, a 1001 just starting and Smoke Diver. (I believe I was as nervous as those first week 1001 guys. You know the feeling). As people started showing up at the dorms and I started talking to people I found out who was there for Smoke Diver. The first thing I did was size up others and made my decisions who was going to make it and who was going to quit. DON'T DO THAT!!! You are there for you and it does not help especially when you had someone in you mind who would pass and they fail out on the first day, It messes with your mind. Try to build friendships before Monday it will make you stronger and more comfortable as the week goes on. Of course the beds suck, as if the normal lack of sleep at the academy was not enough I was constantly thinking about the next day so needless to say I did not sleep much Sunday night. MONDAY MORNING... It is finely here, day one of Smoke Diver. I went to eat and get ready for the 8:00 class meeting. As I walked into the class I saw all the instructors staring me down and all the other candidates doing the same but with the same nervousness I had as I looked back at them with. 8:00 sharp Mark Moss started speaking he made a few jokes and then started telling us how the week was going to go. He actually calmed me down and put a sense of "it going to be ok" in my mind. Monday morning is very relaxed. You fill out all your paper work get your HR, BP and all that good stuff then you go out and do the physical entry exam (You better pass. That is another thing you can practice at home. Don't show up if you can't pass the entry, IT'S IN THE BOOK) We did the pull ups first knock out the seven and walk down to the drill tower. There you will either do push ups,sit ups, climb the tower or walk the beam. It all depends on who is doing what when you get there. Once about half of the class gets done doing all of those entry exercises they will start a group running. That is not a race you don't get points for finishing first so just go out and finish under 11 min. Once both groups are done with the run you go back to the class and they will lay out the afternoon and tell you the rules and send you to lunch. You have. four evolutions that after noon and you have FIVE chances to pass each evolution. Once you complete all the evolutions you get to go to the drill tower and take all your stuff off and relax while you wait for the rest of the class to finish(could be hours). The first to evolutions my partner and I breezed through, a single story fire w/victim and a repel. The Third evolution was not so easy. we had to follow a hose to a firefighter down and remove him. Attempt one took us too long to get the dummy so we ran out of air before we got out, attempt two we got to the dummy fast but then spent two much time trying to get the dummy out of his hole. Once we did get him out and get him moving out we got to the stairs, I decided to pick him up and carry him(200+ lbs) when I got to the first landing I put him down to get a breath then I picked him back up and continued. When I picked him up I felt severe sinus pressure but I kept going when I got to the top of the stairs my sinuses "popped" and I thought blood shot out of my nose at that same time I think I passed out and hit the ground but when I hit the ground I woke back up. We continued to try to get out victim out of the building but again we ran out of air at the exact same place, so we walked out listened to some instructors yell at us and went to go get our bottles filled back up. By this time I was physically beat down and I had it in my mind something was wrong with me because of my sinuses. We stayed by the water cooler as long as we could then the instructors started yelling again then it got to the point they were yelling at us to "go home" or Get our packs on. At that point I thought I was going to have to quit, then an instructor came up to me and said "look at me in my eyes" I bobbled around and tried to focus on his eyes and he said it again. I finely focused on his eyes and he said " yep that's what I thought it was, you have too much quit ,just go home" that comment lit a fire under me that next time we went in we went straight to the dummy and I picked him up and carried him all the way up the stairs through some obstacles and right out the door as my mask sucked to my face. I was NOT going to repeat that evolution again. We got our bottles filled up again and went to your fourth and final evolution of the day. Our first attempt we failed, but it was because we very tired at this point. We filled up again and made another attempt which was easily completed due to the fact I WAS tired and I wanted to rest. Day one over time to shower, eat, and attempt to sleep morning two was ahead. DAY TWO MORNING..Every morning you go the the class to talk to instructors and get ready for your morning. Instructor Moss offers to say a prayer in you want it (which we did)he is very relaxed and calm especially in the class and that is nice. While you are in the class you get to see who did not make it through the day and for me that sucked because my partner did not make it to class that next day. So I got put into a group of two other guys. Tuesday morning was by no means easy but it was. I had made it through my mental block, I was recharged and very confident. That morning I did not have to repeat an evolution so I got to go to the drill tower and relax and chill out till the remainder of the class finished. When they did finish we discovered the class was down to seven from sixteen. We laid out our turnouts and headed up for lunch. I ate what I could and took a cold shower and laid down for about 10 min then we were back to the class room. Tuesday afternoon was equally as hard as Tuesday morning. My partners and I were doing great with each other then on the last evolution we had a miss communication that lead to the repeat of our last evolution. Due to the fact we were tired and did not follow simple instructions from the instructor we had to reset the evolution, fill our bottles and do it again (with success). DAY THREE MORNING..Feeling recharged not refreshed we started day three with seven. To me Day three was the hardest but my best day. That morning we went through every evolution with out a repeat. We had to do most evolutions three times because we had three people but we did not have to repeat due to failure. Day three afternoon we still had our seven. my group was doing great. we had already completed three evolutions when I received bad news, someone had dropped out and that the partner I was going to be paired up with had not completed an single evolution. That ment I would have to redo all the evolutions I just completed and do the last one I had not completed. Talk about letting the wind out of my sails. I went back and repeated all the evolutions I had just completed when another man medic'd out. So I was back to a three man team but that was not good because the last man we picked up was lazy. Either way we went to the last evolution of the day (The scuttle hole) and completed it the first time (with out the help of man three). Day three over but that does not mean the rest of the week is a cake walk. DAY FOUR MORNING... I was physically, mentally and emotionally beat down I hated the fact I had one more day. To make things worse man three had it in his head that it was going to be an easy day..WRONG!!!! We started off the day with a hot bottle swap and that was easy enough, I had practiced. Then the Evac-walk we were doing good our hoses were right and were were feeling good except man no 3 he complained the whole time talking how he was uncomfortable...DUHH. ITS SMOKE DIVERS!!! NOT A COMFORTABLE THING!! Well he had talked the whole time and used up all his air before we finished going down the stairs for the last time and panicked when he did he dropped his hose and started to run down the stairs, well when you drop the hose or let a coupling hit metal you have to repeat so we had the honor of repeating the what should have been the easiest evolution of the day. Upon completion of the evac-walk we went to fight a fire with some victims well no 3 got lost so we had to repeat. This time we told #3 not to move, we put him at a pinch point and made him hump hose. I know it sounds like I hate #3 and that is because I do. At this point the instructors were talking to us about how we need to get rid of him or get him under control. He had already caused one other guy to fail out I did not want to be his second casualty. Partner #2 and I decided we would do what ever it took to get us through even if it ment dragging #3.(And we did.) The last evolution dumb-ass screwed up again were searching a garage and told him to stay at the entrance so we could find our way back out well he moved to search another room with out us knowing. We completed the evolution but when we got outside we were informed we failed. The instructor then politely (high decibel and red faced) informed us of what happened. So again we had to tell #3 not to move so #2 and I could complete the evolution. Thursday Morning over with, half a day left and I was beat. As we dragged ourselves back into the classroom Thursday afternoon the instructors told it we would be doing jumping jacks of joy by 1500 and I thought BS. Moss Informed us of the afternoon activities and told us we had to do all five evolutions on two bottles of air, no refills and there were no repeats, if you failed out that was the end of your chance to become a Smoke Diver. Well we made it. We exited the building at the right door and found a group of people showing support for what we had just accomplished. It was awesome. We were then informed we need to go ring the Smoke Diver bell that sits in the middle of the fire academy lawn to complete the course. The five of us suddenly found the strength and energy to sprint to the bell and ring it. I am very proud of the fact that I completed the Smoke Diver course, especially because I use to think it was just a patch. Well it is not just a patch, it s brotherhood stronger than that of the fire service it self. I had people from other departments that I have never even heard of calling me congratulating me on my accomplishment and welcoming me to Smoke Diver Brotherhood. I learned a lot about my self. I learned my strengths when it comes to physically and mentally pushing myself and overcoming some huge obstacles. If you are reading this thinking of signing up for Smoke Divers of if you have already signed up I hope it helps. NO I did not give all the info or the evolutions that is because they will change from class to class and it takes away from the challenge if you know exactly what you are doing. If you need help training or just want more info on Smoke Diver let me know. I am more than willing to help. If it is possible I will come and help you train or you can come and train with me. Please leave a comment or send me an e mail Thanks for reading and GOOD LUCK!!!