I woke up early this morning to attend the first of four training days for the Alaska Wildland Fire Medic program. On Monday, I will take the pack test - and endurance test that is one of two steps in earning my Red Card. In May, I will complete my Red Card requirements by passing four days of Emergency Fire Fighter training, and in doing so be given a green light to work on any wildfire line in the country. In June, when the fires start, I will hope for a call telling me that I have two hours to be at the helipad on the local army base to meet a lead medic and four hundred pounds of medical equipment. All summer, I hope to be camping in the smoldering taiga treating burns and dehydration and blisters and intestines plugged up by too many MREs. And maybe a cool chainsaw wound or two or three.

Sounds cool, right? But in order to pull this off, I have had to reign back my already dwindling kennel hours, despite the lack of training pay for the summer. I have also had to reschedule things with the Little Tour Company, where I am helping prepare a new crop of guides for their commercial driving test. I have had to do this a few too many times this week, as non-negotiable fire trainings keep getting shifted around. I am afraid that I am blowing my good will and credibility with the tour company and my friends there - especially the friend who helped me snag this training position. Also, around fire fighters at the station and medics at the training, the language and talk is loud and rough. Kayak guiding and deck handing on Resurrection Bay and working in a shelter in Chicago set me up well for this. But the corporate culture at Little Tour Company runs on a different track. I thought I was doing well going back and forth until I received a reprimand this week for using the word "freaking" in the staff room at LTC.

Then there is the reality of Fire Medic training itself. This first day consisted of fire-medics showing cool slides of flames in trees, billowing smoke and pretty vistas they have camped in while waxing on about this fire line and that fire camp and how much it rains and floods and how dark smoke is. Interspersed between these slide shows were acronym strewn arguments about the politics of helicopter procedures, ICS structure and lower 48 crews and assignments. These heated conversations meant nothing to me. I felt like Charlie Brown when the grownups talk. We only got to relevant medical stuff (debriding burns, dealing with AMS, how the pounds and pounds of gear is allocated) in the last couple of hours of a long day. Already over an hour behind schedule, it was given short shrift.

In addition, although the majority of those at the training were from my fire department, there was a clear inner circle of veterans of the program. I felt my friendly hellos rebuffed by folks I have been working and training with since January. It stung, and I got a little pissed. Although I packed a lunch to eat (peter made hummus and falafel, horrah!) I decided to cough up lunch money to eat with the group at the mess hall on base. I thought the cold shoulders of the morning were perhaps due to a lack of coffee. I was wrong. It was elementary school lunch all over again - both in food quality and cool-kid table politics. I could hardly believe what was happening. I will be eating my own pita bread tomorrow.

When I got home, I threw on my training pack and slogged around the neighborhood in the break-up mud. Peter and Nyssa came along for moral support. I have two days till the pack test and I am terrified of failing, especially in front of department captains and firefighters I'm trying to gain credibility with. By the time we got back to the house, snow had started spitting again. Is it going to be a long weekend.

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