SUGAR CREEK TOWNSHIP — It’s all about being as prepared as he can, and making sure at the end of each shift he’s able to go home to his wife and kids. Sugar Creek Township Fire Department’s Casey O’Daniel is now one of the most highly trained firefighters in the state after passing the most intense training class available in the nation.

With nine years of firefighter service under his belt, O’Daniel recently became an official Indiana Smoke Diver. Becoming an official part of the Indiana Smoke Diver Association isn’t for the person who approaches things halfway. The highly trained firefighters are the toughest of the toughest, taking on and conquering what seems like insurmountable training goals.

“It was definitely the six most difficult days of my career and I can say that for sure,” O’Daniel said.

Each training class starts out with dozens of firefighters from around the Nation. O’Daniel’s class, Class 10, held in mid-March, had 46 members start the training. Six days later O’Daniel was one of 15 firefighters left standing to earn the name, “Indiana Smoke Diver.”

O’Daniel, who has been at Sugar Creek Township Fire Department for 7 years this summer, became the first firefighter from the department to make it through the training.

“I did this training because I wanted to be the best firefighter I could be for the community, our guys and most importantly I did this for my family to make sure I am as trained as I can possibly be no matter what situation I get into,” O’Daniel said. “With this training I’ve given myself the best opportunity to get home to my wife and kids.”

The course is a grueling six-day, 60 hour program designed for the experienced firefighter who desires realistic training in self-survival, firefighter rescue, advanced search and rescue, thermal imaging, emergency procedures, teamwork, discipline, team leadership, situational awareness and decision making as well as how to function within the elements of the Incident Command System.

The Indiana Smoke Diver Association is a direct descendent from the Georgia Smoke Diver program and is a 501(c) nonprofit organization. The organization conducts advanced firefighter training known as the Indiana Smoke Diver course. The association allows Smoke Diver instructors a chance to educate students in one of the best environments in the fire service.

There are currently only three such programs in the United States, one in Georgia, Indiana and a newly started training in Oklahoma.

No member of the association receives any compensation for their work and each member is required to cover all or part of their expenses related to the delivery of the Indiana Smoke Diver course. However, officials with Sugar Creek Township Fire Department considered this as training for O’Daniel and supported him wholeheartedly, O’Daniel said.

The mission of the Indiana Smoke Diver Association is to prevent death and injury by training firefighters to be adaptable and to develop critical decision making skills in high stress environments.

“The training got to the point where you have to look at each day, each evolution, each step you do, you have to see it on a micro scale,” O’Daniel said. “You can’t look at it on a macro level or it would be way too overwhelming.”

For O’Daniel it was about performing the task at hand at a high level, then moving onto the next obstacle. It was that kind of laser focus that compelled him through the difficult training.

“Each one of us who made it to the end we talked about that, focusing on one thing at a time, that’s what you had to do,” O’Daniel said. “We all visualized each step.”

Motto’s from the class included sayings like, “nobody cares, work harder, ” or “good enough never is.”

O’Daniel’s biggest take from the six days was that the limits he’d set upon himself could be broken.

“For me it was, no matter what situation you’ve been put in, you can always do more and continue on,” O’Daniel said.

In order to help the firefighters going through the elite training put the work into perspective, one of the instructors told O’Daniel, he said that each rescue effort should be approached as if the firefighter were trying to save his own child.

“That really resonated with me that no matter how tired I was or how beaten down I was, if I thought of my child or my wife, or one of my guys, I would move a mountain to make sure they were taken care of,” O’Daniel said. “I learned no matter how tired you are or how stressed you are, you can always do more, and you can always find the next gear.”

O’Daniel says he’ll take what he learned in the training and share it with the firefighters at Sugar Creek Township.

“I’m so excited to bring this back to the guys in our department,” O’Daniel said. “The guys that trained us and lead this training are some of the best firefighters in the country and in the state and they push you to the highest level.”

That’s why when O’Daniel finally made it through the program he walked away knowing he had accomplished something special.

“If you get to the end, you really earned it,” O’Daniel said.

The training program is offered once a year and now that O’Daniel has passed and is an official Indiana Smoke Diver, he more than likely will be asked back to help other firefighters in the next class.

“Now I can help mold and build up firefighters for the next generation,” O’Daniel said. “I am looking forward to that.”