When fire training chief Dathan Black arrived in 2013 from Camp Humphreys, Korea, he created Redstone fire department's training program. And he assumed the multiple roles that go with it.
That includes all the training that is fire related, hazardous material, aircraft firefighting and rescue, technical rescue and emergency medical services. Black is also in charge of the logistics division, which means supplies and budget. He serves as the health and safety officer for the department. Basically his job is to procure and obtain proper equipment for the operational firefighters and to provide realistic training in a safe environment.
His work hasn't gone unnoticed by his superiors and consequently by the Department of Defense. Black has been named the DoD Fire Service Instructor of the Year for the Atlantic Region.
"He was the only one that we feel could've won that award at Redstone Arsenal," acting fire chief Cyrus Jones said. "And he's done an outstanding job as the training officer."
Black serves as an assistant fire chief and chief of training in the Garrison's Fire and Emergency Services, training division. He was among the 2014 Atlantic Region Fire and Emergency Services Award winners announced Feb. 18.
"It's appreciated but it's not a singular award as it's written," Black said. "It really includes the entire department as a whole for what they've done in the past year."
He assumed Redstone's newly-created position of fire training chief after five years at Camp Humphreys from 2008-13. He had to create an entire training program that met the requirements of the Army and DoD for the 58-member department.
Black first entered the fire service field as a volunteer in 1997 in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. "I started to do volunteer stuff and get into EMS (emergency medical service), that kind of gave me the bug and then I decided to join the Air Force," he said. He served in the Air Force from 1998 until the end of 2005, leaving as a staff sergeant in fire service.
He has two associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force, one in fire science and the other in instructor of technology and military science. He earned a bachelor's in fire service management in 2010 from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He also has a master's of business administration from the University of Phoenix in 2012.
He and his wife, Billy, reside in New Market with their three daughters. Kaya, 14, is an eighth-grader at Buckhorn Middle; Kara, 12, a sixth-grader at Riverton Intermediate; and Annie, 10, a fourth-grader at Riverton Intermediate. Black, 36, enjoys kayaking and motorcycles.
"Basically our job (in fire service) comes with a ton of inherent risks. It's the nature of the beast," he said. "So my job is to train our people in as many possible scenarios as they can ever encounter and give them the confidence and ability to assess and manage that risk in the training environment so they can perform the task real-world. I'm real big on perfecting the basics because when you perfect the basics and it becomes second nature, everything else comes easy.
"My goal for the future for Redstone is to close the gap on all of our deficiencies, we still don't have all the equipment we're mandated to have. So my goals are to get our guys the equipment and the training they need because the better training we have the better our service to the community."
The other 2014 Atlantic Region Fire and Emergency Services Award winners included: small fire department, Fort Meade, Maryland; medium fire department, Fort Drum, New York; large fire department, Fort Benning, Georgia; fire prevention program, Fort Knox, Kentucky; civilian firefighter, John Wilson of Fort Benning; and civilian fire officer, Jacob Geer of Fort Knox.