Tuesday 20 March 2012 marks 45 years of service for John Mcleod, or ‘Jock’ as he is fondly known.
This officially makes Jock the longest serving member having joined up on the 20 March 1967.
Jock moved to Darwin with his family from the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne as a teenager in 1964, ending his apprenticeship as a Diesel & Mechanical Fitter.
Within a couple of years and over a couple of beers, Jock was encouraged to become a firefighter by his father who had seen an advertisement. Having applied and completed the interview, Jock patiently awaited any news.
While breaking from a hot game of basketball, he nicked over to the fire station for some cold water one day and the Chief Fire Officer recognised him as one of the applicants and informed him there and then that he had got the job.
And so, Jock’s long and successful career began, shortly after standing alongside fellow legendary colleague, Paddy Peckover, they swore on the bible.
All those years ago, Jock completed his recruit training before being posted to the Operations Division in Darwin. He served at Daly Street, Nightcliff, Winnellie and Casuarina before being promoted to Senior Firefighter in 1976 and posted to Katherine two years later.
In the early 1980’s, Jock went on a Station Officer exchange to South Australia. While there, he got more than he had bargained for. He experienced the Ash Wednesday fires in the Adelaide Hills, followed by the Yatala Prison Riot a week later where the Prisoners attempted to burn the Prison down. While still on his exchange program, flood waters hit the city surrounds and he spent significant time assisting the SA fire department pumping water from basements. So while his exchange proved to be a wealth of interstate experience, the SA members concluded that Jock was a jinx and he should return back to the Territory!
And so he did, and in 1982, he was promoted to Station Officer before reaching the rank of Senior Station Officer.
Senior Station Officer McLeod transferred back to Darwin from Katherine in 1985 to start sharing his learnt skills and experience with other, junior members. He commenced work in the Training Division for the next three years before going back to operations initially as a Watch Commander on B Watch in 1987 and then Officer in Charge of Palmerston in 1993.
Since 1996, Senior Station Officer McLeod has served as the Officer in Charge of the Technical Service Section in Darwin.
Jock was one of few left in the NT Fire and Rescue Service who remembers the amalgamation of the Tri-service. This was a significant event in the history of Police, Fire and Emergency Services and indeed, a unique move which sees this agency the envy of interstate and international responders when it comes to coordination in the event of an emergency. For NT Fire and Rescue, this also meant they gained immediate access to specialist areas such as Mechanical Workshops, uniform & general supply stores, and the start of a Human Resources department. Further in 1985, Fire and rescue took over the role of road crash rescue from Police.
When Jock was asked what his most memorable moment is, that sticks in his mind the most over his years, his clear answer was, ‘Cyclone Tracy. In particular, Jock referred to the way “the blokes worked together … Everyone banded together.” he said. Jock stated he thinks he saw just about the most courageous blokes you’d ever wish to meet during and in the aftermath of this event.
The nature of NT Fire and Rescue incident response means that it isn’t all laughs and smiles by any means. Incident response regularly involves traumatic and horrific scenes and most Fire and Rescue personnel will agree that road crash incidents are generally up there as the worst.
For Jock this is no different. He recalls clearly his worst incident he was called to attend, and indeed, it was a horrific multi fatality road crash near Katherine.
The crash involved 5 vehicles and 7 people lost their lives. As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of those killed was the worst nightmare of any firefighter; he was one of Jock’s great mates from the local Lions Club in Katherine. It was “Mothers Day”.
In recognition of Jocks efforts, dedication, commitment and courage in the NT Fire and Rescue Service, he was the proud yet humble recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2000.
And so, with his 45 years experience, Jocks advice to the new recruits: “Learn all you can, talk to people, learn from their experiences, observe everything that’s going on around the place. Across the board there are some really great Firefighters out there. Work out where you want to go in the NTFRS, and work hard to achieve it. Firefighting is a team game, be part of that team.
To others thinking of joining the Service, do it.