Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 33 seconds

I'm in the hard hat

I’m in the hard hat

My brothers & I grew up with our dad at his remodeling company called Levco Builders. By the time I was old enough, dad had several carpenters working for him. I was a willing participant in the team dynamic. Working with our hands I could see the fruits of our labors daily.

I realize looking back that despite never having played organized group sports, I have participated in, and have been drawn towards great teamwork all of my life.

I new the bond built working together was special, but never bothered to dig deep and understand why until now.

What I Enjoyed the Most About EMS Career

From first ambulance shift as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in West Oakland in 1977, I was hooked. It was all for one, and one for all. The cry for help on 911 was the match that lit the fuse.

I worked the Grave Yard Shift with my partner Doug Jay. He and his regular partner Rich Roos were split up to work with the new guys, me and Tom Gallanati. Breaking up that those guys did not make Rich or Doug happy, they let us new kids know it.

As Doug and I uncomfortably prowled around the city all night as EMT’s in our ambulance, I gradually learned the ropes and the dynamic of needing to depending upon each other. I was mentored as we ran calls. We also rehearsed how we would handle a variety situations in our down time. All the while, keeping an eye on each others back as if our lives depended upon it, because on many calls it really did.

Ada County Paramedics

Paramedic Partners

Like a fine wine that gets better with age we strengthened our bonds over a few years. We learned each others strengths and weaknesses, we were able to run an entire hot call barely communicating, we called each other “Partner“. I could always hear his voice above the noise, anticipate his next move, and read his mood. I began to understand the full meaning of what a great partner was. Doug insisted that I attend Stanford and become a Paramedic when I did not believe I had the aptitude.

I learned to see the big picture and work with allied agencies. On the huge disaster calls, like the BART (Bay area rapid transit system) fire under the bay, we were split up for a few hours but managed to reunite before being hospitalized together. Working out of a Fire House as a Paramedics in Daily City made it even more fun. Towards the end of our working together we were accused of acting like an old married couple.

When I moved to Idaho and joined Ada County Paramedics, I gained more responsibility and comfort in the profession. Although I wasn’t working with Doug, I had an uncanny ability to blend in and create new partnerships that weren’t quite the same but amazing just the same. I was a sponge, Jim Lemieux, my new partner had a unique way of doing the same job.

I worked with many wonderful people over the years, each one brought a different personality and each partnership was bonded in some way by a call that changed us and welded us together. I discovered that the longer you were paired, the deeper the bond.

Unless you have had this experience, there is no way to explain it. Sometimes I’d lead and sometimes I’d follow. A good partner knows when and how this dynamic works.


Upon joining Life Flight in 1986, my team expanded to three by adding Pilots and Nurses. Most nurses initially had no clue how to work together in this way, working outside of the hospital was very foreign but, we quickly figured it out together. Some of the strongest partnerships of my life were made here. As the intensity ratcheted up and the stakes were raised every time we left the ground. It became normal to be completely connected with each other.


Pilots remained somewhat separate focusing on their job but when the pager went off we were partners in the full sense of the word. I thank them collectively every day for bringing us there and back safely. You all became a part of my most inner circle.


Sharing the bond with dispatchers was a knack I developed at the same time I started to fly. Air Medical Dispatchers were my conduit of information, options, and resources if I needed anything. It paid to get to know them well and develop a close bonds which I did. Sadly one just passed away. Shout out to Carter Duke RIP my friend.

After a wire strike in our helicopter with Bob McClellan, Beth Studebaker, and a patient on board, everything went into slow motion. I remember feeling like Terry Smith was there for me as I spoke my final words while watching a shower of sparks fall away and the lights of Idaho City go black instantly below us. Lady luck was with us that night and we survived physically unscathed.

How I’m Filling the Void.

It is clear that I am not a loner. it is also clear that I do my best work when I am challenged and encouraged. In an effort to keep the eternal light of teamwork and partnership lit within me, I have become aware of other strong partnerships I have created in my life with my parents, siblings, and their families. My wife Rachel, my kids, and dear friends.

My Precious Remodeling Team

Bonded now by the common goal of remodeling homes to make our clients lives better. The stakes are less, but my employees who act like extended family now make up my trusted inner circle.

Then there are the people in the background that keep us headed in the right direction, coaches mentors and friends with their guidance and greater understanding of the big picture. The rest of my team is made up of my subcontractors and vendors.

Midway through the year I take a moment to reflect and giving thanks, I want to celebrate and remind everyone who I have ever partnered up with me just how precious teamwork and the partner relationship is. In the words spoken by Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire, “you complete me”.

Joining together with you in an effort to do something that I could not do on my own for the better of others is a highlight of my life.

Bless you all and thank your for being my better half. Love Joe