Photos courtesy Melissa Lawson

FORNEY, Texas — Forney Fire Department Lieutenant David Lawson achieved what many firefighters all over the world strive for while competing in the Firefighter Combat Challenge — the coveted "Lion's Den" distinction.

The Lion's Den distinction is awarded to the top competitors of the Firefighter Combat Challenge who perform the challenge course under a designated time. Last year, only 24 competitors across the globe — from the United States, Kuwait, New Zealand, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Ukraine, among others — achieved the Lions Den distinction.

With the achievement, Lawson, who was a founding member of the Forney Combat Challenge Team over a decade ago, now joins fellow team members Brian Leathers and Russell Bannister in the Lion's Den.

Lawson achieved Lion's Den during the Forney Combat Challenge Team's appearance at the U.S. Nationals competition in The Colony, Texas, this past weekend. He was presented his Lion's Den Challenge Coin during the Nationals event and will be presented his Lion Varsity jacket, helmet sticker, lapel pin, and framed Certificate of Achievement during a Lion's Den Induction ceremony at next year's World Challenge event.

Lawson came close to Lion's Den on three other occasions, narrowly missing the cutoff by seconds, he tells

This year, he says, things were different. Finding out about his father's recent cancer diagnosis halted his training. However, a number of circumstances, along with the support of his teammates, Lawson made the last minute decision to run at Nationals.

After a small hiccup in the tower climb, Lawson rallied through the remainder of the high-rise pack carry, hose hoist, forcible entry, and hose advance. When he turned for the victim rescue portion of the course, he glanced up at his time and realized he had 30 seconds to complete the course with just a few seconds to spare. As he crossed the finish line, three seconds under the Lion's Den threshold, he was welcomed by his teammates as the newest Lion's Den inductee.

Leathers previously obtained Lion's Den during the Nationals competition in Tyler, Texas, in 2017 and Russell Bannister obtained the same distinction during the World Challenge XXII in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2013.

During this past weekend's 2020 U.S. Nationals, the Forney Combat Challenge Team finished 3rd in the Team Relay and Bannister finished 2nd in the Over 40 challenge. The team is comprised of members Bannister, Lawson, Leathers, Randall Morris, and Thomas Boroughs.

"Words can’t describe how PROUD we are of this guy!!" read a statement on the Forney Combat Challenge Team's Facebook Page. "David Lawson was one of the original members of this team over a decade ago and he finally got that GOLD COIN!!! Congrats brother, you earned it!!!"

The World Challenge XXIX will be held at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit facility at 5601 Riverside Drive in Irving, Texas, from October 22nd until the 25th.