Today’s blog is about Major Jason Brezler, USMC/FDNY and founder of Leadership Under Fire, Inc. Hope For The Warriors® is proud to help support the Leadership Under Fire team through the college initiative program.
In 2006-2007, an infantry battalion of U.S. Marines found themselves locked in a lethal fight against disenfranchised Sunni Iraqis and fanatical Al Qaeda foreign fighters in Fallujah, Iraq – a dangerous and deadly mission deemed virtually impossible by many strategic intelligence analysts. In the ranks of that battalion was Captain Jason C. Brezler, a USMC Reserve Officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate who had taken a leave of absence as an FDNY firefighter to again lead Marines in harm’s way.
When Brezler returned home in the summer of 2007, he spent many long nights reflecting on the Fallujah experience. His reflections of battlefield leadership offered overwhelming parallels to advancing discipline, survival and leadership in firefighting operations. It was during this period that Brezler’s trusted patrol navigator, Corporal Bill Cahir, encouraged him to apply the harsh but important lessons of combat to the fireground. Consequently, Leadership Under Fire was born.
In 2012, Leadership Under Fire, Inc. was officially formed when Brezler assembled a group of young service-oriented men from various backgrounds and with wide ranging operational experiences. The Leadership Under Fire team is reinforced by a mentor team of experienced and accomplished fire officers, several of whom are also former Marines.
The mission of Leadership Under Fire, Inc. is “to contribute to the technical, physical and mental development of our nation’s firefighters and officers through rigorous and forward-thinking conferences, presentations and tactical training programs in order to advance survival, discipline and leadership with those who have been called to serve in today’s fire service.”
In August 2009, Sergeant Bill “Werewolf” Cahir, the same Marine who had been so instrumental in the Leadership Under Fire concept, was killed in action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Brezler thought it only appropriate to create an initiative that not only honors Bill’s service and sacrifice, but his firm belief in higher education for those dedicated to civic service.
Subsequently, the Bill “Werewolf” Cahir Initiative was created.
The program affords post-9/11 military veterans pursuing academic study pertinent to fire and rescue service the opportunity to attend Leadership Under Fire, Inc. conferences and tactical training events at no expense. This initiative is a win for the fire service, America’s military veterans, and higher education. It
ensures that Bill’s legacy of service and sacrifice lives on. Hope For The Warriors®
enables the financial aspect of this initiative through the organization’s college initiative program.
On October 27, 2012, Leadership Under Fire held its inaugural conference, entitled Making Yourself Hard to Kill, in Philadelphia, PA. The conference focused on the mental aspect and survival mindset involved with firefighting.
The event included a “Survivor Panel” involving reflections from firefighters who had been forced to jump from burning buildings, a renowned Everest climber, and two U.S. Marines who had been wounded in Iraq; one who had been shot in the face by an Al Qaeda sniper. Firefighters and fire officers traveled from 26 states and Canada to attend the day-long seminar. The audience also included 19 post-9/11 military veterans who attended the banner event under the Werewolf Initiative.
One post-9/11 veteran registrant commented, “I got into the fire service because I missed so very much the camaraderie of Corps. As a college student, I desperately needed some sort of unit belonging as the student undergrad body is in no way is my peer group. After taking off my uniform I noticed it didn’t take long to start feeling naked and like a sheep in the flock…The Leadership Under Fire conference sparked the fading light in my civilian world; I can honestly say that was the most alive and motivated I felt since leaving the Marine Corps…I hope that I can demonstrate the level of professionalism and high moral conduct of the many speakers present that day in Philadelphia, every single person that spoke that day impacted my outlook on the fire service, my character, and how I needed to live my life with a purpose.”