Two VAFB firefighters win DoD level awards

Mark Smith, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, and Robert Raffel, 30th CES rescue truck captain, Sept. 1, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Smith and Raffel, won DoD civilian fire officer of the year and DoD civilian firefighter of the year, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Released)

Mark Smith, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, and Robert Raffel, 30th CES rescue truck captain, Sept. 1, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Smith and Raffel, won DoD civilian fire officer of the year and DoD civilian firefighter of the year, respectively. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

Two members of the Vandenberg fire department recently took home two DoD level awards for the year of 2015.

Robert Raffel, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron rescue truck captain and Mark Smith, 30th CES assistant chief of operations, won DoD civilian firefighter of the year and DoD civilian fire officer of the year, respectively.

“Both Mark Smith and Robert Raffel have dedicated their lives to the service of others," said Clemente Marrero, 30th CES response division chief. "They've stepped up to take on a demanding career field. Success is often disguised in hard work, and these two have stepped up to do the hard work. They are MVPs on a championship caliber team, who never quit, never do the expected, never rest on their laurels, and never think great is good enough.”

Raffel attributes the award to having an innovative team, leadership that is willing to take risks and maintaining a vision for the future.

“It’s obviously a team effort and I think we have a culture here at Vandenberg where we aren’t afraid to try new things and fail,” said Raffel. “Our department is very supportive of innovation and individuals goals. We aren’t afraid to stumble along the way as we figure a lot of this stuff out. We have a lot of guys with great ideas and our managers allow those ideas to be tested. We always ask ourselves what can we do better and how we can be involved in the community more; both inside the gate and outside the gate.”

With two DoD award winners in a single shop, the recognition reflects highly on the VAFB firefighting team.

“I work with some of the most progressive professionals in fire,” said Smith. “I would not have received this award if it were not for those that I have the privilege to lead. I'm responsible for the management of six fire stations and 30 personnel that deliver emergency services to the Vandenberg community and provide mutual aid response to our local communities.”

Aside from having a team they can trust their lives with, both Raffel and Smith have learned to thrive under high stress situations.

“One of greatest challenges of this position is managing the flow of information,” said Smith. “From the daily routine of operations to the scene of an emergency it can go from a quiet moment to intense in seconds. I've learned to triage what I'm presented with. As well as passing the task or information on to whomever owns it. This has been critical in thriving versus just surviving. It is an honor to be recognized for this award.”