The moment was surreal for Fort Gordon Fire Chief Lester Porter.
When he heard Fort Gordon called the best small fire department in the Department of Defense at an awards ceremony in Dallas last month, he was in shock.
"I was frozen in time. I thought 'I guess that's me.' I had no idea we would win," Chief Porter said.
The announcement was the culminating award in a long string of honors that included being named the best in the region and best in the Army.
"It's a very humbling experience," he said. "I'm very grateful. I'm truly blessed with the caliber of personnel."
Though there were many criteria for winning the award, two events in 2005 defined the department. The first was the Graniteville train crash and chemical spill in January 2005.
Fort Gordon responded to the scene with its hazardous decontamination vehicle and helped decontaminate many of the people at the crash site.
The unit also responded to a suspicious package containing white powder at a Columbia County home in July 2005.
Its work with surrounding fire departments in response to incidents and in training helped provide Fort Gordon with its win, Chief Porter said.
The fire chief said he hopes this win will help his department receive funding from the Department of the Army for new equipment.
"We've already proven we can take new equipment and utilize it in real-world situations," he said. "We are a progressive and pro-active department."
Despite the many trophies and plaques the department has received this year, Chief Porter said his unit is focused on its mission.
"None of us are in this business for the awards," he said.
He said he plans to continue to train his firefighters to be their best and to "safely do their job day to day."
If they are trained to the best degree possible, Chief Porter said, it helps with his peace of mind when sending them in harm's way.
"This is one of the most dangerous professions," he said. "That's one of the realities of my responsibilities of being fire chief."
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