NAVAL AIR STATION KINGSVILLE, Texas (NNS) -- Dave Yeager says becoming a Certified Navy Emergency Manager was a goal he had for almost a decade.
Yeager, emergency manager for Naval Air Station Kingsville,not only achieved it, but is the first emergency manager certified under a Navy program established in January 2017.
"I guess you could say I was the guinea pig for the certification process," he said.
"I'm very proud to say the Navy now has an emergency management certification program for emergency management specialists. And there are some really, really good ones out there."
Yeager was presented the certification in a ceremony Dec. 13.
This is the first time Department of Defense has pushed certification for emergency managers under a DoD program instead of outside civilian organizations. Navy Installations Command issued guidance in January.
Requirements include at least three years of experience as an emergency manager, multiple training certificates and advanced training.
"Most of the stuff I already had, it was just a matter of pulling it into one location," he said. "There were five initial submissions; I guess I was the first one to make it all the way through the process.
"Now that we know what the process is, I'm sharing that with everybody.
"I'm not going to get a pay raise, I'm not going to get any awards, but this has been a personal goal for me for a long time."
Certification guidelines are stringent and there are no waivers, Yeager said. Certification is good for five years.
"Emergency managers are those guys behind the curtain, pulling the strings, is the easiest way to explain it," Yeager said. "We're the guys that first plan for emergencies, then we coordinate the responses for those emergencies."
The primary focus is on ensuring those responding to the emergency have the resources and support to effectively respond to the emergency, with an emphasis on safety.
"My primary function is to make sure the entire emergency operations center and the incident command post are operating as necessary as well as making sure the public is informed of the incident itself as well as what actions they need to take to protect themselves," Yeager said.
"We always work with a worst case scenario and always have a Plan B. And sometimes a Plan C."
Yeager got into emergency management late in his 28 year active duty career as a Navy master-at-arms while stationed at Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Greece, as the security force master chief petty officer.
"I helped set up the emergency operations center there," he said. "At that time, it was called disaster preparedness."
In 2005, he was security master chief at Naval Air Station Lemoore when a major fire engulfed some base housing and he played a major role in the response. As he approached his retirement in late 2006, he was offered the civilian job as emergency manager.
"I jumped on it simply because I had a little bit of background and a little bit of taste of it before," he said. "It was really humbling to help folks who were hurt by the disaster up there."
The fire experience also convinced Yeager of the need to build good relationships with other local, regional and state emergency organizations and first responders before an emergency, something he's emphasized throughout his career.
Lemoore became home, but the next several years included a return to Souda Bay to build a new program there and the helping set up the new Naval Support Activity Monterrey in 2010.
"Standing up a new program was probably the most fun thing I've ever done," Yeager said.
Next stop was Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and responsibility for multiple detachments across four southern California counties - and dealing with dozens of civilian emergency agencies. Then a short stint back at Lemoore before reporting to NAS Kingsville on May 31, 2016.
"That was my very first day on the job - which of course was the 100-year storm," Yeager said. "Three tornadoes, massive flooding, loss of communications. Welcome aboard Dave Yeager. Here's an emergency for ya.
"I hadn't even got the key to my office yet."
Yeager said he intends to keep doing emergency management "until they tell me I can't do it anymore."
"Most emergency managers are only famous when they fail," Yeager said.
"You're not going to get rich; you're not going to be famous. You do it for the personal satisfaction of knowing you are helping people."
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