2017 Virginia Fire Officer Academy Celebrates 10th Anniversary Program

By Nick Caputo
Courtesy of the Commonwealth Chief (July 2017 Issue)

The Virginia Fire Chiefs Association (VFCA) and the Virginia Fire Chiefs Foundation, working in conjunction with the VFCA Company Officers Section, hosted the annual Virginia Fire Officer Academy (VFOA). Due to popular demand, the VFOA was held twice again this year at the University of Richmond on June 4-9 and June 11-16. The 2017 delivery of the VFOA marks the 10th anniversary of the program which will be celebrated by a special anniversary challenge coin. The coin will be available for purchase to past VFOA graduates and staff while supplies last.

Forty fire officers were selected to participate in each academy and were selected through a competitive application process. Participants represented various geographic areas of Virginia, including metropolitan areas, rural areas, and suburban communities. Applicants were nominated by their respective departments and selected by the VFCA Selection Committee. The students are members of career, volunteer and combination fire departments. Applications were received from 129 people representing 47 Virginia fire departments.

The theme of the VFOA is Safety through Leadership (STL) and is based upon the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives known nationally as the Everyone Goes Home® Program. The STL curriculum focuses on improving leadership techniques, personal accountability, and fostering the cultural change required to improve firefighter safety by implementing the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. Modules for the program include: team building, the impact of the leader’s attitude on safety, employee coaching techniques, conflict resolution, correcting unsafe behaviors, effective communication, cancer awareness and prevention, firefighter safety and health, and dealing with employee stress. Students deal with leadership challenges, by participating in real life role playing scenarios using actors and facilitators to guide the learning process. A special delivery of the In Honor of the Charleston 9: A Study of Change Following Tragedy by Dr. David Griffin was also delivered as a special evening session commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Charleston 9 incident in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the VFOA program.

Speakers included: Greg Huber of Signature Team Building (Glen Allen, VA); District Chief Randy Keirn (St. Petersburg, FL and Fully Involved Consulting); Art Jackson of Eagles Nest Performance (Woodbridge, VA); Battalion Chief Tim McKay (Chesterfield, VA); Battalion Chief (Retired) Warren Cersley (City of Richmond, VA); Battalion Chief Joy Knicely (Chesterfield, VA); Deputy Chief Todd Lupton (City of Manassas, VA); Assistant Chief Matt Tobia (Loudoun County, VA); Battalion Chief Michael Pfaltzgraft (Anne Arundel County, MD); Vickie Taylor (Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Prince William County, VA and Behavior Heath Specialist for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation); Battalion Chief James Orndorff (City of Winchester, VA); Lieutenant Robert Owens (Henrico County, VA); Battalion Chief Adam Jones (Manassas Park, VA); Lieutenant Blane Johnson (City of Winchester, VA); and Fire Marshal David Creasy (City of Richmond, VA).

The VFOA Command staff consisted of Captain Todd Spruill, Incident Commander (City of Richmond); Lieutenant Blane Johnson, Deputy Incident Commander (City of Winchester); Captain Carl Chandler, Deputy Incident Commander (Chesterfield County); Firefighter Tim Farrar, Curriculum Section Chief (Henrico County); Firefighter Robert Gomez, Finance Section Chief (City of Waynesboro); Lieutenant Michael Hirsh, Logistics Section Chief (King George County); Captain Brian Hoover, Operations Section Chief (City of Portsmouth); Captain Andrew Carver, Planning Section Chief (City of Manassas); and Captain Richard Trent,
Technology Section Chief (City of Virginia Beach).

The VFOA staff would like to give special thanks to the academy facilitators: Battalion Chief (Retired) Bob Woods (Henrico County); Chief Jay Cullinan (Spotsylvania County); Battalion Chief Tim McKay (Chesterfield County); Division Chief Matt Embrey (Spotsylvania County); Deputy Chief Todd Lupton (City of Manassas); Battalion Chief (Retired) Joe Bailey (City of Fairfax); Captain (Retired) Wally Burris (City of Fairfax); Captain William Moreland (Fairfax County); Battalion Chief James Orndorff (City of Winchester); Chief Ian Bennett (City of Harrisonburg); Battalion Chief Adam Jones (Manassas Park) and Deputy Chief (Retired) Nick Caputo (VFCA Liaison to the VFOA). Graduation ceremonies were held on June 9 and June 16 for each respective graduating class. A follow-up article will appear in the October issue of Commonwealth Chief.