Meet Sigie Cornejo – a former active-duty Marine who now serves in the Marine Corps Reserve. Learn about his experience as a current AmeriCorps member in Arizona Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. I’m into music and sports and have been interested in those hobbies since I was in grade school.
Tell us about your military background and why you joined the armed forces.
I joined the armed forces for a couple of reasons. I wanted to do something for the country I live in and love so much, and also do something important for our citizens. I also joined because I wanted the challenge and wanted a change of direction in my life.
I served in the United States Marine Corps. I joined in the year 2009 and left active duty in 2014. I am currently serving in the Marine Corps Reserve. I was stationed in camp Pendleton in California for the majority of my enlistment and I deployed in 2012.
What did you do upon initially separating from the military?
I initially went back to school and got my certificate in audio engineering from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. I am also currently working on getting my bachelor’s degree in business management.
How did you learn about this program? What interested you or made you want to join?
I learned about this program through research. I wanted to get into fire before I joined the Marine Corps, so I decided I still wanted to pursue a career in fire after leaving active duty. I researched different vet programs and I saw this one online. I wanted to join because I wanted to do something for people and the environment.
Tell us a bit about what you’ve done while in the program.
We have done some conversation work, like working on public trails and making sure they are clean and usable. We have also done prep work for a control burn and have also taken down trees that would possibly endanger public areas or trails, or are in an area where they might pose a danger to people or property. We have also learned to read and study the weather to keep ahead of a fire and know how to react if a fire does happen.
What have you enjoyed about this program? What have been some of the challenges?
I have enjoyed everything about this program, especially the connection with the crew and all the time we have spent working together. The benefits are all the knowledge and networking that we have been getting in order to succeed and have a good career in fire.
Some challenges include being away from home and having to catch up on everything on our days off. One of my challenges is to also do my duties as a Marine once I get back from a hitch. Another challenge is being financially stable through a training program like this. It’s something you need to plan ahead for.
What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to do after you leave the program? My plans include to have a good career in fire, and to stay and retire with the reserves. I would like to get my master’s in business, so I shall see what the future holds. I hope to line-up a position after I leave so I can start my career in fire.
What would you say to other recently separated veterans looking to make their next move? What should they know about joining a program like this?
I would say to stay positive if they’re lost in not knowing what to do, and to focus on what they really want to do and not just settle for anything. I would say to be patient and work hard on getting to their goal. They should know that a program like this takes dedication and effort, but, if they work at it, the program will pay them back in skills that they need in order to succeed.