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Veterans in the 21CSC: Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork GreenCorps Program

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From Mt. Adams Institute

In 2014 Mt. Adams Institute and the Umatilla National Forest launched a new wildlands firefighting training program for military veterans ages 19-35. The VetsWork GreenCorps program trains military veterans for potential careers in wildlands firefighting and prevention.

The program entails 12 weeks of hands-on training in which participants receive U.S. Forest Service instruction in safety, chainsaw use, tool use, wildland firefighting, and crew organization. Veterans work on fuel reduction, leadership training, and exposure to fire suppression. A recent 10-member VetsWork crew worked alongside an experienced 10-member Forest Service crew (also veterans) on a large-scale forest thinning project that had been a priority for a number of years, but had been on hold due to budget restrictions. This “Umatilla Vet Crew” thinned an incredible 48 acres.

The impact on the Corpsmembers was equally impressive.

“The VetsWork GreenCorps program is intended to support military veterans as they transition back into civilian life by providing them with this opportunity to explore a potential career in service to public lands and the natural resources that abound in our region,” said Brendan Norman, Executive Director of the Mt. Adams Institute.

At the conclusion of the program, eight of the ten members of the Umatilla Crew were immediately hired as seasonal firefighters at the Umatilla National Forest. During this past wildfire season, which was one of the worst in recent memory, they were able to put their skills to good use. All have been invited back to be seasonal members of the Forest Service component of the Umatilla Vet Crew, supporting next year’s VetsWork GreenCorps members.

“This is a great program to get on the fast track into employment with the U.S. Forest Service,” said 2015 VetsWork graduate Russell Vansteel. “It’s a big time commitment, but it was well worth it to me.

The Umatilla National Forest leadership has committed to ongoing support of the VetsWork GreenCorps program and is looking forward to another successful year in 2016.

To learn more, check out a video about the VetsWork: GreenCorps program on the Mt. Adam Institute’s website, or visit the Umatilla Veteran Crew Facebook page to see the work they have been engaged in since completing the program.