June 2021 Leadership Message From the ISFSI President: Pete Van Dorpe

Greeting’s sisters and brothers!

I do sincerely hope and trust that this finds you hale and hearty and once again getting outside, dining, shopping, visiting, and embracing your friends and family! Our family is blessed to still have my dad (at 88 years) not just still with us but as sharp (and as curmudgeonly) as ever. Since he and many of my siblings, et al are considered at high risk for bad Covid outcomes, we have been largely avoiding personal contact this past year. That all changed this Father’s Day when we got our vaccinated selves together to celebrate the day with dad and most of his 10, yes TEN children. It is my fervent wish that you and yours are experiencing a similar return to normalcy and the celebration of the relationships that matter the most to you.


Throughout 2021 we continue to celebrate the ISFSI’s Inspiring, Supporting and Elevating fire service instructors throughout the world. This celebration will hit a high point as we gather at FDIC 2021 on August 2 through 7 in Indianapolis, where 45 of your fellow Society members will be making 51 presentations throughout the week. We will also be honoring Chief Patrick Kenny with the George D. Post Instructor of the Year Award at the Thursday Opening Ceremonies. 

Early this year, the Board of Directors decided that the ISFSI would have to forgo our usual schedule of events and the renting of a booth at the August show because of financial uncertainties we were facing at the time.  We had to bear in mind several things. First and foremost is that the April 2022 show expenses come from our 2021 budget. Going full bore in August 2021 and then again in April 2022 would put two shows worth of expenses in one fiscal year. Additionally, we were facing (at that time), a moving target and something less than certainty that a 2021 FDIC would take place at all. We had also missed out on our recruitment and retention (e.g., dues revenue) opportunities at FDIC in April of 2020 and 2021. Lastly was a then significantly reduced revenue from delayed 1403 credentialing classes. Put this all together with the early 2021 uncertainties about vaccination efficacy, supply, distribution, and adoption. Bottom line: The Board, under my guidance, decided after due deliberation to forgo our booth space, ISFSI Members Social, and Board dinner and Board Meeting Luncheon at FDIC 2021 in August. 

This does not, in any way shape of form, mean we will not “be there”!  The ISFSI will most certainly be present at FDIC and in a very big way!  (Did I mention that 45 of your fellow members will be making 51 presentations during the conference?) You will soon, or may have already, received details as to who will be presenting what, and when. I encourage you to make every effort to attend their classes. If you have already done so at previous events, please join me and the Board in stopping by before or after their presentations to thank them for their efforts and to wish them well. The Society also plans several “pop up events” during the course of the week. Stand by for more details. 

The Fire Department Instructors’ Conference was brought into being by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Though we have become organizationally separate entities, the ISFSI will always consider itself a part of, indeed a partner of, FDIC and hold dear the mutually beneficial relationship we have always enjoyed. Hope to see you all at FDIC 2021 and am looking forward to a return to normal in 2022.

Mortenson on Leadership

I have had many blessings in my career and was particularly fortunate that they spread themselves out to cover the whole course of it. One of my greatest later blessings was the opportunity to work for and with Colonel Royal Paul Mortenson USMC. I met Col. Mortenson after his Marine Corps career when he became the Director of the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI). I won’t try to do his USMC career justice here; you can easily look it up. Suffice it to say that one of his last commands was The Basic School at Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va. This is the Marine Corps officer basic school. The Officer Basic Course lasts 28 weeks, during which new officers receive classroom, field, and practical application training on weapons, tactics, leadership, and protocol. It is where they teach their officers to become officers. To the best of my understanding, this position is appointed by the Marine Corps Commandant himself. You might guess that the person in charge of officer development for the USMC knows a little bit about leadership. 

To the point (almost), one of Col Mortenson’s greatest accomplishments, IMHO, during his tenure at the IFSI was the development and implementation of the course on Leadership Development and Decision Making (LDDM). This is a rigorous, weeklong, Socrative learning based, University vetted, contact sport with live fire and come prepared to work class. You can learn more about it here: 


More to the point (finally), is that the leadership tenets that Mortenson learned and refined over the course of his careers with the USMC and the IFSI are at the heart of the class. I keep them where I can see them every day. You should to. He makes no effort to boil it down to a few quotes or catch phrases.  Leadership is a lot of hard, complicated work. It requires detailed attention to many areas and skills.  These are perishable skills that will require a lifetime of renewed effort. Read them and weep my brothers and sisters. If you want to be a great leader, you’ll just have to “embrace the suck”. (Credit to David Goggins, et al). 


  1. Be a good person, a person of character and strength, and you will always be a good Leader.
  2. Never be afraid to take a moral or ethical stand on something you believe in your gut to be right. Stand up and be counted.
  3. Always hold yourself accountable for all you do and don’t do. Hold others accountable for their actions commensurate with their position and responsibilities at every level.
  4. Listen to and help anyone, anytime. Expect and demand that your subordinate leaders do the same, however, remember, every person must reach out and grab the “offered hand.”
  5. Don’t lie, steal or cheat and never tolerate those that do.
  6. Someone has to lead, in the absence of authority---take charge.
  7. “Band of brothers” is not just a line from Shakespeare’s Henry the V. Your unit should be a Band of brothers. Like a brother, never turn your back on your fellow Marine or Sailor. Take care of each other. The organization’s success depends on it.
  8. Always strive to be tactically and technically proficient in all you do. The price of anything less is far too costly. You will certainly play a role in an uncertain world. Never let it be said that your unit failed, or you lost a member of your team because you didn’t do your homework.
  9. Everything you do must prepare yourself and your team for mission success and survival.
  10. Mistakes of omission will not be accepted. Tell your people; “if you act and make a mistake because you lacked accurate information, but you did your best---all can be fixed. If your mistake is bedded in a failure to try---all will be painful.”
  11. Take care of your families. Stress at home tears at the fiber of your unit.
  12. Never accept hazing, racism or otherwise cruel, demeaning behavior, it is the hallmark of the ignorant and the unprofessional.

You’re not done yet, but we will wait until next time to look at Mortenson’s 13 Executive Leadership Principles. In the meantime, tell me what you think about the 12 tenets. As always, remember that your communities need you healthy and happy, therefore; keep well and healthy. Take care of yourselves and your families. Be Good to yourself and to one another. Thank you!

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