Be the One

Redding IHC Crewmember – 2016

The South Canyon Staff Ride is one of the most valuable experiences of the Redding IHC program. This staff ride provides a powerful and meaningful way to learn from the tragedy of Storm King Mountain.

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Another advantage of this event is the diversity of participants, ranging from first year forestry technicians to regional office and national office fire and aviation managers. The lessons learned and emotions felt on Storm King Mountain make this staff ride worthwhile and extremely useful in the development of high-quality forestry technicians and leadership.

Redding IHC concludes their intensive six-week training program with the South Canyon Staff Ride. After reading the South Canyon Investigative Report and “Fire on the Mountain” by John Maclean, Redding crewmembers speak and help facilitate at the various stands throughout the staff ride.

In addition to short speeches at the stands, participants engage in many tactical decision games. Tactical decision games encourage participants to engage in thought-provoking group conversations. Participants experience and learn from the actual fire environment, topography, and human factors of the tragedy on Storm King.

In addition to these facilitated conversations, Redding crewmembers perform the actual “1,880-foot run” that claimed the lives of so many on July 6, 1994. Crewmembers exhaustedly run past the stone crosses of the fallen with fire shelters in their hands, hoping to be as fast as Eric Hipke was on that fateful day.

Eric Hipke is a wealth of knowledge. Learning directly from him is a real privilege. Learning from his experiences and emotions really opens the eyes of forestry technicians and places all of the material into a meaningful, emotional context. As a wise person stated at the integration dinner, “Emotion is the glue that connects experience to memory.” All of the Subject Matter Experts are pivotal to a successful learning experience on Storm King Mountain.

The varying experience levels of participants also fosters a broader learning opportunity. First year forestry technicians have significantly different points of view compared to those of national office fire and aviation managers. Bringing all of these leadership elements together into one facilitated group allows the participants to share their backgrounds and experiences in a meaningful way, learning from those that have fallen in the line of duty. “It’s all about the people.”

The integration dinner gives everyone an opportunity to share one or two things that they learned from the South Canyon Staff Ride. People of all ranks shared some powerful lessons and messages, including: “Practice without consequences.” “Expectations drive preparations.” “You can’t eliminate risk, just trade it. Be sure to trade up.” “Emotion is not weakness.” “Be the one.”

The Redding IHC 2016 South Canyon Staff Ride was an incredible learning experience. I would encourage all forestry technicians to attend in the future. Everyone can and should learn something from those who fell on Storm King Mountain.

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