Fit to Serve is presented by The Transcend Foundation.

James Geering knew what he wanted to do when he grew up ever since he was a little boy in the United Kingdom. He wanted to be a firefighter. However, his goal was initially derailed after being told that he was not capable of being one.

He said, “I had poor color vision and was told that would disqualify me from making my dream come true.”

However, he would relocate to the United States in 2002 and discovered that his vision issue was not as serious as he was previously told, and the fire that fueled his dream was reignited. He would enroll in a Fire Academy and would realize his goal of being a firefighter as well as a paramedic.

While working in Florida, he also graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s in Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology. After devoting a portion of his career in Miami, he relocated to Anaheim, California to work for their fire department, which he called his favorite. What he appreciated initially was that the standards to meet before putting on their uniform were incredibly high.

“A group of new firefighters can come in, but by the end of the first probationary year, 25 percent will be gone. That forged incredible firefighters.”

As much as he appreciated those standards in Anaheim, he later found that other departments did not hold the same standards. This was frustrating to him as someone who desperately wanted this career for himself for many years.

“Mentally, it would be very unhealthy to go into a place where standards are so low.”

Because of how passionate and serious he took his job, Geering has been and continues to be active in fitness both for himself and others. He works as a functional fitness coach at a local gym, where he works with clients to learn and apply the knowledge to get in better shape for themselves and the people around them.

“That can help us become better firefighters, police officers, but also we can be around more which will help us become better father or mother, husband or wife, etc.”

James Geering sitting on a wall next to his firefighter suit and equipment
James Geering

As satisfying as training others as a coach is, he felt there was more to do after seeing the low bar that some departments had set. He noticed that there was not enough information being shared on health and wellness for firefighters to live their best lives and be at their best in those important moments. That is why he wrote a book that was published in 2020. “One More Light: Life, Death and Humanity Through the Eyes of a Firefighter” discloses insight and stories from Geering’s experience that can both tug at your heartstrings and provide inspiration and hope.

He also went on to launch the Behind the Shield podcast, where he brings on guests to discuss various matters such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), fitness, sleep deprivation, and more. The issue he feels is the biggest “elephant in the room” is the firefighter’s work schedule because of how the long and numerous hours can affect every other aspect of their well-being. He shared that the public’s view of a day in the life of these heroes is not accurate to say the least.

“Most of the fire service members in America work 56 hours a week. We are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Anything that doesn’t involve arresting someone falls on the fire service.”

The long hours, being overworked, and short time off which leads to sleep deprivation are a few of the reasons why many of those in fire service are facing health issues during their careers and after. Just like athletes focus on getting quality sleep every night, Geering stresses that emergency service providers must do the same.

“Sleep is imperative, but many of us are not getting enough of it.”

Shining a spotlight on those matters and sharing the truth about this work is why he launched the podcast. Taking that first step may have been a challenge, but he saw it was making a difference. He had initially started it while still working a regular schedule with his day-to-day career, but he then took what he described as a “leap of faith.”

James Geering doing a rope pull workout outdoors
Courtesy of James Geering

“After two years, I actually left the fire service and just did the podcast because I realized it was a multiplier at that point,” he explained. “I was having more of an impact doing that than I was riding a fire engine.”

The reach of the podcast also appealed to Geering. He can serve people in a community in everyday service, but he can reach all parts of the world through his episodes that have featured various guests including Tim Kennedy and Tulsi Gabbard, among many others.

“As long as you have internet and understand English, you can get something from all these guests. It is a free library for the world.”

As far as Geering is concerned, this service is not only beneficial but necessary because the people that can apply the information shared may very well save a life at some point.

That is as important to him as the dream of being a fireman himself was in his younger years. Through his passion for fitness and the growth of his podcast, he hopes to reach as many firefighters as possible so they can be at their best when the alarm sounds.

“The fact is that your life, your partner’s life, and the people you are serving all depend on your physicality.”

Geering’s podcast is available on all major audio streaming platforms. For more information on the Behind the Shield podcast and Geering himself, Click Here!

M&F Senior Military Editor Rob Wilkins contributed to this article.