(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Department of State’s, Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) has named Joseph Maner Lawton, Civil Servant of the Year for his outstanding contributions to the development and completion of the new DSS Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) and for his role in improving DS security training. Located in Blackstone, Virginia, FASTC is the nation’s largest training facility dedicated to security and safety overseas.
Lawton, chief of the DSS Driver Training Unit, has trained thousands of special agents and Foreign Service Officers. He has deployed mobile training teams to more than 60 countries worldwide, training U.S. embassy drivers, and also developed the Department’s first armored vehicle driver training course.
With extensive special operations experience and work in high threat environments, Lawton was instrumental in the design and construction of the FASTC driver training and vehicle maintenance facility. Lawton and his team of 78 instructors and support employees train thousands of students in defensive driving techniques annually at the new FASTC facility that was inaugurated in November 2019. FASTC is expected to train 10,000 students annually once it is fully operational after COVID-19 limitations are lifted.
During the construction of FASTC, Lawton’s dedication and expertise likely prevented injuries and possibly saved lives when he recognized potential safety hazards concerning the original design and construction of several of the high-speed driving tracks. He was instrumental in the redesign and reengineering of the tracks to enhance their safety and usability—resulting, for example, in the installation of four miles of water/sand filled barriers along the most dangerous sections. Soon after completion, several incidents did occur when students lost control of their vehicles, but the barriers performed as planned, thus averting serious injuries.
His management of multi-million dollar contracts relating to the 14-bay vehicle maintenance facility resulted in the acquisition and servicing of a fleet of more than 200 vehicles—during which he took the facility from bare bones to a fully outfitted maintenance facility “that rivals or exceeds those found at NASCAR or Formula 1 race tracks.”
Lawton, a retired Army veteran was formerly with the 2nd Ranger Battalion and 10th Special Forces Group. Earlier in his civilian career he worked in numerous high threat protection details around the world, supporting various federal agencies, and conducted counter narcotics operations in the Caribbean.
Lawton is the son of the late Joseph Maner and Becky Lawton. He has three sisters, Dr. Vivia Fowler, Libby Hromika, and Annie Lee Redd. Maner was born in Conway, S.C., but lived in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. as a child. The family later relocated to Florence where he attended West Florence High School and Francis Marion College before entering the military.