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To close out year #45, the daughter and I had a busy weekend. On Saturday we went to the zoo for my company’s annual picnic. Since I’ve only been at this job a week, it was a rather awkward event because I only recognized about 7 people. But after lunch we were able to see the zoo and that was really fun. I haven’t been in ages and they have really expanded and upgraded the exhibits.   My daughter Chelsie turns 21 in a few weeks and her favorite animal is the giraffe, so of course we had to go see them. In addition to seeing the new baby in the group, she was able to feed them. The look of unbridled joy on her face was priceless! That was an early birthday present for both of us, though for different reasons.Excited Chelsie

On Sunday, we had a volunteer opportunity at the local airshow. I’m NOT a morning person, but I dragged myself out of bed for the hour (ish) drive south to Ellington AFB to get there at 5:30am (do the reverse math and you realize I was up very early). Upon arrival I was met with a considerable bit of confusion from the other volunteers but more on that in a moment.

During my shift I met some great people from the Houston Police Dept, the Texas Guard, and of course the pilots for the actual planes. The pre-dawn hours were chilly and windy, but the sunrise was amazing and the day was clear and perfect for flying. It was great to watch the vintage planes take flight, knowing people care enough to maintain them and keep their colorful history alive. The precision of the Breitling air team from France was amazing – these jets fly with less than 10 feet of space between planes – that’s crazy precise! And of course the Thunderbirds are always an outstanding close to the show. My face is sunburned from a day spent staring up in the sky (even with a hat on), but Chelsie and I had so much fun- it was definitely worth it.

Now, about those volunteers. I’ve been a part of our local CERT group for many years (Community Emergency Response Team – organized by Dept of Homeland Security and the local OEM). They’re a good group that teach valuable skills and produce some well trained volunteers. But, how can I put this…they also host some nut jobs. I understand that in volunteer based organizations, beggars can’t be choosers, but there comes a point where certain volunteers may not support an organization’s best interests.

CERT teaches disaster preparedness – if poo hits the fan, the first responders may not be able to get to you or your neighborhood. CERT teams are established to be able to respond and contain most situations until the cavalry arrives. They are trained to handle the basics of triage/medical, search and rescue, communications, and fire suppression. They teach you to work in teams, methodically and in a government approved format, to minimize risk while maximizing effort. It’s a great program, its free, and again, entirely volunteer driven.

While taking the class, CERT provides you basic gear, like hard hats, gloves, goggles, medical supplies, etc.- the basics to get you started with emergency response. You are free to add to it as you like. This tends to bring out the extreme preppers in your neighborhood. By the 2nd class McPrepster is hauling in his military grade pack with enough gear to face the zombie hordes while you are still trying to figure out basic acronyms . Versions of this extremist are found in other roles throughout CERT – the over organizer who wants every drill or event to be perfect, the radio specialist who takes over all communications, and the ones who know just enough to be dangerous. Yes, they mean well, but they tend to not play well with others. Group members stop wanting to participate because these guys take over the show and suck all the joy out of doing a good deed. This also means that when they get all jacked up for an event in mil-spec BDU’s and their official CERT gear, they can be overbearing to the public, which casts a disparaging pallor over the organization and makes recruiting other volunteers a lot harder to do.

Such was the case Sunday. The team was small, but comprised of people who just felt the need to be overly in charge of their assigned tasks. In an emergency where you may be saving lives, I get that mentality and we would all be in that mode. But this was a family friendly event, where our primary goals were checking gate passes and redirecting traffic. Have fun, smile at people, be courteous as you tell them they are at the wrong entrance, and when they feel the need to vent about lack of signage, smile and be sympathetic. Anything else is just unwarranted. There was no need for you to bring tactical gear, a trunkload of equipment, or a smartass attitude. We’re volunteers trying to do a public service – if you have to ruin that for the public and the rest of the volunteers, then what’s the point? While I see this currently in CERT, I’ve seen it elsewhere, and I just hope we can all remember (and maybe remind our volunteering cohorts) that we’re all working for the same cause, and none of us are getting paid for it. We learned it as kids, but sometimes we need to remind each other as adults: play nice or else pretty soon there won’t be anyone else to play with!