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Applying Lessons from GORUCK Events to Real Life

I hope you are all keeping your sanity during these strange days. During these times, we are all adjusting to a new normal, however temporary or permanent it is. I wanted to take a moment and reflect upon what I have been doing in Chicago, how GORUCK and my time with the Cadre have impacted my actions and performance during these times.

Currently, I have been working everyday since March 14th (55 days straight). I am still working my firehouse shift work (once every three days for a 24 hour shift) as the Lieutenant on Chicago Fire Department Hazardous Incident Team, Special Operations.  On the other two days, I have been placed as the Site Lead for the O’Hare International Airport Active Surveillance Screening Teams for Americans returning home from abroad.

While working this detail, service and mission focus has been at the forefront of my mind. Every first responder that I know (police, healthcare, EMT/paramedic, and fire) have approached this COVID-19/pandemic situation aligned with the motto of the Travis Manion Foundation, “If not me, then who”. We are no different. I have worked to develop a shared vision of how this team should operate throughout the process with numerous federal agencies (FAA, CDC, CBP, and DHS). This has caused me to attempt clearly communicate the objectives of the mission and get the buy in of the fire department members working the detail so that they comply with a different mission parameter than they are accustomed to. I have had to over communicate “why” we are doing things and deal with deviations swiftly so that they don’t grow roots in behavior, similar to what we have seen in the dark hours of a GORUCK event as we are exhausted from the hours on our feet and weight on our shoulders.

I have reflected on books that I have read on military leadership and the Cadre talking about team work and shared burden during their time of service. Through these lessons, I have applied them to develop strong team work to complete our work. Throughout these 50 days, stories and jokes are developed even though the long days and time away from friends and family have become a normalcy. Poor Norm will never live down his “HELLO” which sounds like a mixture of John Candy in “Vacation” and a moose call through his N95 mask.

As I work on this team, I recall being tired at GORUCK events but still enjoying them, similar to this experience.  I focus on the “now” and not longing for the past or wishing for the future.  Simply grinding out the here and now to accomplish the mission.  We have had two deaths of Chicago Fire Department members from COVID-19 and most recently a third who was a close friend of mine who suffered a stroke and passed from COVID-19, a firefighter from a suburban fire department I work for.  Currently, we don’t have the time to formally mourn on their passing but continue our mission of public safety.  When the mission is done, we will have the proper time to reflect and honor their passing.

Also, in brief moments of time, I reflect on moments of peace and learning that I had through the years of GORUCK events including Trek, Beached, Ascent, Jedburgh, Navigator, Expedition, Immersion, and Constellation. I recall good conversations, shared drinks and food, laughter, and stories of service with the exceptional Cadre and Americans that I was with for these brief times. These moments of reflection at different locations throughout the country and experiences put a smile on my face and makes me think of the great community that GORUCK has become.

The lessons learned from these experiences and events have shaped my attitude and leadership style to develop this program and move this team forward. A great opportunity during trying times which will develop into lifelong memories. The here and now is filled with thousands of stories of selflessness, helpfulness, and simply better Americans. Something that GORUCK strives to produce. In this case, I would like to believe it worked.

While I grind out this mission, I also find myself reflecting on each of your own personal missions in service to country. While my profession has put me in danger (from nature not from another human), it was never the level of danger that our military and other agencies see overseas.

I am thankful that I have had the GORUCK community in my life for the past 7 years and your impact has truly been felt during these times.


About the Author
Patrick Jessee has served in the Chicago Fire Department for 20 years in various roles including EMS, Fire Suppression & Rescue, Hazardous Materials Training, Special Projects, Headquarters Staff, and Special Operations. He has participated in over 70 GORUCK events.

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