Alberto Torres joined the Milpitas Fire Explorers when he was just 16 years old. Now, five years later, he continues to serve as an Explorer Leader of Post 904, and is working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
Recently, Alberto, along with other explorers, attended the California Fire Exploring Academy in April, which was held at Camp Parks in Dublin, California, and was hosted by the Tracy Fire Department. In the interview below, we asked Alberto about his experience at the Academy, as well as his service as an Explorer.
What initially drove you to become an Explorer?
Initially, it was the physicality of the program. I have always been a tactile learner and team-oriented person. Additionally, the prospect of getting to wear hero’s gear and getting to break stuff without consequence was pretty cool too.
Can you tell me a little about your duties as Milpitas Fire Explorer Post 904 leader?
As an Explorer leader, it is my goal to help shape and support individuals coming into the Fire Service, from those with some experience, to people with none at all. I have to make an agenda for the year, coordinate with fire line staff for training beforehand, approve training methods, create power points and projects for upcoming trainings, and set up all materials the day of. Above all of this is not to demand, but earn the respect of the explorers under me. I strive to do this by being thoroughly competent in teaching them the craft and certain skills. I also must represent the values of a good leader at all times. I must give clear instruction, give purpose to the task given, and act with the utmost integrity. Lastly, I don’t rule with an iron fist. I encourage constructive criticism of myself, and ideas within my ranks in order for better training and efficiency of our meetings. This is all in an effort to improve the post as a whole.
Also, what does it mean to you to be in this leadership position?
To be in a leadership position is a great honor for me. I have the opportunity to change people’s lives and impact them in ways many others cannot. When I started this journey five years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to be in life. It all changed with a flyer I noticed in my school. And it all cemented in me after my first training. I am now more motivated, more driven, more competent than I have ever been. I credit my success to the Explorer Program, and how it has shaped my life. And now, as a leader, it is my goal to give that to others.
How has serving as an explorer prepared you for your work as an EMT?
When I was an Explorer, the post helped me find avenues of getting certifications. I earned a CPR/AED card through the post in 2014. Additionally, the fire fighters I met offered information about becoming an EMT quite readily, and ultimately helped me achieve my goal.
What has being an Explorer taught you?
Being an explorer has taught me many life lessons. Life lessons are never easy, but essential to developing into a responsible member of society. Especially when it comes to critical emergency situations. One of my first lessons was professionalism. The ability to look at a chaotic situation and neutralize it so I can start fixing it. Also, I learned how to be a good leader by watching fire fighters who had decades of experience, and are still teaching and involved in the basics. Leading by example with fairness, compassion, and holding both yourself and others accountable has been a big lesson for me as well.
What was your experience like at the California Fire Exploring Academy?
It was an experience that I had not had before. One week, from 0500 am – 1130pm, sleeping in barracks with people you never met before. Amazing. So much to learn from people all throughout California with a class of about 168 explorers. It was a large scale event with drill instructors and strict paramilitary standards. There were some days I was incredibly inspired to do my best, and others where I felt miserable. I learned about myself, about others, and gained much mental and emotional strength from it. Not to mention the hottest live fire class I’ve ever been in, it melted my helmet! I can’t wait to go back.
The Academy made me appreciate the small luxuries of everyday life at home. I have a room to myself, a bed that isn’t made of concrete, I don’t have to do P.E. at 5am, and much more. I feel that it humbled me, and has motivated me to become a better me every day. A stronger version of myself is ready to face new challenges more than ever, one step at a time.
Thank you for the great interview, Alberto! Wishing you all the best.
For more information about the Milpitas Fire Explorers Program, go here.