By Kevin Jackson, AMCMarch 22, 2017
McALESTER ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT, Okla. -- He strives for excellence and yet downplays his successes, but after 10 years as a member of the fire and emergency services team here, Shawn Johnson was recently named the 2016 U.S. Army Materiel Command Civilian Firefighter of the Year.
Johnson, a firefighter/emergency medical technician/HAZMAT technician who is MCAAP's lead firefighter, was announced as the winner by Col. Sean M. Herron, commander, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in front of a group of his colleagues, March 8.
"The chief told me I was nominated," Johnson said, "but I didn't know I had received the award until it was announced this morning."
Darryl Wagoner, assistant fire chief and his supervisor, recognizes Johnson as a top-notch employee.
"Shawn is outstanding," he said. "He always strives for excellence. We always talk about duty, integrity and honor -- he possesses all of those qualities. I can't say enough about him."
Johnson started working as an explosives worker at MCAAP in March 2003, but he didn't embark on a career in fire and emergency services until November 2007.
The irony is that it was then MCAAP Fire Chief Don Capps, who retired in 2013, who led him to the profession with another organization two years before hiring him in the same capacity at the ammunition plant.
Johnson said they were attending the same church in Savanna, when Capps invited him to join the volunteer fire department there. It's been his passion ever since.
"It's fun, it's exciting and you get to help people," Johnson said about the work.
In his nomination packet for the award, MCAAP Fire Chief Mark Davis credited Johnson with developing and implementing the department's training program, spearheading the effort to create the Emergency Communication Center (EEC) which combines the security and fire dispatch, and teaching CPR to countless people in the community.
Davis also touted Johnson's Fire Officer III certification by the Alabama Fire College and Personnel Standards Commission, which is a requirement for someone in an upper level management position.
Johnson said working with his fellow firefighters to develop the ECC was particularly gratifying.
"It's really going to be a big help for fire and security to have the combined dispatch under one roof," he said. "It will cut down on response time and give us better communication between the two entities. I'm pretty proud of that."
He's also derived satisfaction from helping the fire department work toward its accreditation, which entails a self-assessment and verification by the Center for Public Safety Excellence.
"It helps fire departments, as a whole, to determine how well they do their job by identifying performance gaps. It helps identify where requirements are exceeded and once you get accredited, it lets people know you do your job well," he said.
In addition to his efforts to improve readiness at the fire department and expand his knowledge of fire and emergency services operations, he's also set a lofty goal for himself.
"I would love to be the chief someday. It would be a good end to my career," Johnson said.
But, for now, he's happy to be part of the team and is modest about the recognition.
"I enjoy my job. I enjoy the people I work with and every one of them deserved this award as much as me."
MCAAP is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial base facilities under the U.S. Army Materiel Command.