FORT BENNING, Ga. – Two firefighters with the Fort Benning’s Directorate of Emergency Services earned Department of Defense awards, while the Fire Department earned the Army’s top honor as Fire Department of the Year (Large Category).
The Defense Department recognized Fort Benning’s own Capt. Mark Lamb and Assistant Chief Ryan Earwood as the Civilian Firefighter of the Year and Fire Service Instructor of the Year for 2019.
“Those guys deserve the recognition,” said Deputy Chief Don Savidge with the Fort Benning Fire Department.
A firefighter for 10 1/2 years, Lamb has worked here for almost five years. He started his firefighting career in Auburn, Alabama, while he was earning a degree in building science at Auburn University. He came to Fort Benning by way of the Opelika Fire Department, which he said was a great learning opportunity.
“The number one benefit of this job is we get to serve those who serve others,” Lamb said. “So while they’re overseas, serving to protect all of our freedoms, they can rest assured we’re providing the best quality of care to their families who are here on post.”
Savidge said Lamb definitely stands out in 100-plus person organization.
“He’s made quite an impression. He was hired as a firefighter and was promoted to captain about eight months ago,” Savidge said. “He is a really sharp troop – a go-getter who takes on any task.”
When nominated for the award, Lamb was a firefighter and lead fill-in for a station captain, and a member of the Special Operations/hazmat team.
“I started out as an applicant for the heavy rescue program at Station 2 and earned a position there,” Lamb said. Additional rescue training he’s completed includes technical rope training, confined space and trench training and structural collapse training.
Some of the bullets on his nomination packet include “performed life-saving treatment for a Soldier who fell 75 feet; conducted primary assessment, immobilized neck and back, aided paramedics – treatment lauded by emergency room physician,” and “responded to residential structure fire; assigned primary rescue; aided fire attack; ventilation crews … saved $400,000 housing unit.”
Lamb said this award is biggest accomplishment one can have.
“My wife and kids did the happy dance,” said Lamb when he told his family about the award. “I was proud. It’s a great accomplishment and a culmination of (my) experience.”
Savidge said Earwood, the assistant chief of training for Fort Benning Fire and Emergency Services, is a true professional who has a passion for training.
Earwood, from Decatur, Alabama, enlisted in the Air Force after high school and served four years as a firefighter at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and four years Reserve with the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron while working for the Eglin Air Force Base Fire Department in Florida.
At Fort Benning, Earwood started as a fire inspector 12 years ago. During the Armor School’s move to the installation as part of Base Realignment and Closure, Earwood said his job was commissioning all of the new buildings, making sure the fire prevention systems work as designed. Now, he’s the assistant chief of training, responsible for all the initial and proficiency training for all firefighters, and all the continuing education for the emergency medical technicians.
Not only is Earwood in charge of the training requirements for 115 people, he’s a liaison with the Directorate of Emergency Services and coordinates joint training between the Fort Benning Fire Department and the local communities, Savidge said.
“We’ve picked up 25-30 local firefighters who maybe didn’t have the DOD required certifications and Ryan’s job is to make sure they obtain those certifications,” said Savidge, “and for our internal people, he has to maintain their certifications. It’s an arduous task – it’s huge; and he makes it look easy.”
Some of the bullets on his nomination packet include “oversaw 22,000 hours of training for DOD’s sixth largest installation; workforce development, career enhancement, succession planning initiatives – successfully processed 187 certifications” and “established mutual aid commercial airport partnership, designed first aircraft joint training program; developed coursework; conducted aircraft rescue firefighting live fires – fire chief save $60,000; 49 certified.”
Earwood said his favorite part of the job is “pulling hose.”
“Any day I can physically go out, pull hose, break a sweat, and teach somebody something, that’s my favorite part of the job.”
Fort Benning Fire and Emergency Services took first place for the Army in the large category by taking 3,416 calls for service; protecting 6,031 buildings, 30 million square feet of property, 116 ranges, 34 helipads valued at $10 billion.
Some of the bullets on this award packet include “responded to 837 medical calls, performed lifesaving intervention – recognized for 18 saves” and “provided technical rescuers during two multiple jurisdictional mutual aid water rescue incidents; provided swift water subject matter expertise; direct surveillance – enhanced incident commander’s response forces.”
Kevin Clarke, director of Emergency Services, said he is proud of how well the firefighters and the department did in earning recognition.
“Fort Benning Fire Department is an outstanding example of service to the community,” he said. “They have a long history of being leaders in their profession at both the Army and DOD level. The firefighters who are receiving the awards this year from DOD are continuing that tradition of excellence.