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Veterans in the 21CSC: Ryan Shepard – California Conservation Corps

Ryan Shepherd was born in Indiana in 1986. He lived there until he was 10 years old, at which point his family moved to Colorado for five years, and then finally settled in Arizona in 2004.

Ryan’s mother raised him and his younger brother by herself.

During his high school years, Ryan was very active in athletics, participating in football, wrestling, track and field, and cross-country running. His mother encouraged him to be involved in extracurricular activities beyond just sports, so Ryan also served as a member of the student council, and participated in his school’s Future Business Leaders of America program. Ryan’s mother instilled in him the desire to be part of something larger and more important than just himself, to always help others, to try his best at whatever he did, and – most importantly – to never give up on anything he tried out to accomplish.

Shortly after moving to Arizona in 2004, Ryan Joined the United States Marine Corps and became an Aviation Ordinance Technician. During his service, Ryan was deployed to Iraq five times and visited 15 different countries. He received an honorable discharge from the Marines in 2008.

Ryan explained that his time in the Marines helped him realize just how blessed we are as Americans. Other countries around the world do not enjoy the same freedoms or access to food and resources. In particular, Ryan stated that it was difficult to see young children in other countries not only living in harsh poverty, but just living to survive another day amidst war and violence. Ryan has learned to appreciate the simple things in life that most of us take for granted.

After leaving the Marines, Ryan made the decision to enroll in the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. Ryan graduated with honors, maintaining a 3.93 GPA in 2011, and was immediately offered a job at a Harley Davidson dealership in New Mexico. Ryan accepted the position, believing he was on the path to his dream career. However, after a few short months as a motorcycle mechanic, Ryan realized that he could never make very much money as a motorcycle mechanic. He took a managerial job at Domino’s Pizza in New Mexico, later transferring to a Domino’s Pizza in Arizona so he could live with his brother.

While visiting his mother in San Diego in 2012, Ryan looked for local jobs on Craig’s List. He ended up contacting a California Conservation Corps (CCC) recruiter to inquire about what had appeared to be a government position that didn’t require an entrance exam. The next thing Ryan knew he was in Corpsmember training with several other veterans, having flashbacks of his time in the Marines. After training, Ryan was assigned to the San Diego’s North County Satellite.

While serving as an AmeriCorps member in the CCC, Ryan completed a 40-hour wildland firefighter training; wildreness first aid and CPR training; food handlers training; leadership training; and S-212 chainsaw training. He was twice offered seasonal firefighter positions with the U.S. Forest Service, but he turned them down for personal health reasons. Ryan went on to become a CCC intern with CAL-TRANS for seven months, during which time he was promoted to Crewleader and joined the Corpsmember Advisory Board. Ryan took special interest in sharing his knowledge of small engine repair with his fellow Corpsmembers and CCC staff. He often stayed after work to repair CCC power tools and teach others. He always displayed the compassion, instilled by his mother, to help others.

Despite doing well on the Conservationist One exam, Ryan accepted a permanent position with one of the California Conservation Corps’ project sponsors, River Partners, as the Southern California Regional Lead Foreman in August 2015. The position pays prevailing wage ($15.00 hr to start) and came with a company truck for him to commute to and from various job sites. The position allows Ryan to continue to work with CCC Corpsmembers as a Technical Advisor for crews. Further, it allows Ryan to continue in a career that he is passionate about, where he can continue to teach Corpsmembers and help them develop the skills and mind set they need to be successful in both the CCC and in life.

Ryan hopes to return to the CCC one day as a Conservationist One, but he feels that until the right position is offered to him he is content to finally be in a career where he can make a difference in protecting the environment and encouraging today’s youth. To that end, Ryan has become a part of something much larger than himself; he makes a difference and has made himself and his mother very proud.