Category Archives: Veterans

Immediate Byte Immediate Venture Bitcore Profit

Honoring Veterans 2017: Andrew Hansen III – Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps

My name is Andrew Hansen III and I am an Army Veteran, originally from the Philadelphia, PA area. I’m an outdoorsman; my love of nature comes from my parents. My mother taught science in public schools for 25 years. My parents actually met at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s West Indies Lab, where they were both studying marine science.

I joined the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps as a way to transition into the natural resource career field. The Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps has been an absolutely life-changing experience. Every day has been a new challenge and a new opportunity. One day you can be doing a carpentry project; repairing a boardwalk in the wetlands of the Indian River Bay. The next day you can be doing wildlife management; installing deer stands and assisting in a managed hunt in the Brandywine Valley.

The sheer knowledge of what you learn would fill volumes. Archeology, history, dendrology, botany, geology, ecology, invasive species management, trail building, carpentry, tree felling and arboriculture, dune structure and shoreline management…the list goes on.

The program has reinforced my desire to pursue a career in natural resources, and the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps, has given me the foundational skill set to do so.

Honoring Veterans 2017: Caitlin Liberson – U.S. Marine Corps Veteran with Mt. Adams Institute and the U.S. Forest Service

Meet Caitlin Liberson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran serving as a Range Assistant with the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest as part of Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork Environment AmeriCorps program.

Tell us a bit about your personal background. Where are you originally from?
My name is Caitlin and I was raised in O’Fallon, MO.

Tell us about your military background and why you joined the armed forces.
I am a U.S. Marine. I joined at the age of 17 and became a Helicopter Mechanic on the Huey [nickname for the Bell UH-1 Iroquois – a utility helicopter] and Cobra [an attack helicopter]. In the five years that I served, I deployed twice to both Afghanistan and Iraq. I joined the Marine Corps to challenge myself, serve my country, and take a path less traveled, especially for a female.

What did you do upon initially separating from the military?
I went to college and got a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology.

How did you learn about this program? What interested you or made you want to join?
I found this program while searching on USAJobs for a position in wildlife biology. When I looked into it in more detail, I found it to be potentially fun and educational.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve done while in the program.
In this program, I have assisted with monitoring/utilization and updating conditions and locations of water developments. I also had the privilege of doing rare plant surveys with the botanist. I also got my RED card for fighting wild fires.

What have you enjoyed about this program? What are the benefits? What have been some of the challenges?
This has been an incredible experience. I love working in the Wallowa-Whitman/Eagle Cap area; it’s absolutely breathtaking. I would have to say learning about rangelands and range management and its different aspects has been the most enjoyable part, along with hiking in this beautiful country.

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to do after you leave the program?
I have another position after this program and it’s with Missouri Department of Conservation as a technician. I would like to continue with this path of conservation and land and animal management.

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?
Make sure you are financially sound. If you’re considering a career in conservation or natural resources, I would definitely do this program.

Honoring Veterans 2017: Elamon White – U.S. Navy Veteran with Mt. Adams Institute and U.S. Forest Service

Meet Elamon White – a U.S. Navy Veteran serving as the Partnership and Volunteer Coordinator Intern at Sumter National Forest as part of Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork Environment AmeriCorps program.

 

Tell us a bit about your personal background. Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in Evansville, IN where I used to spend most of my time in the woods hiking, climbing trees, and riding my family’s four-wheeler through trails. To further my love for the outdoors, I took my passion and applied it to my bachelor’s degree in marine science at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL. My true love is the ocean and all marine creatures, but, as long as I am outdoors, I’m free and happy.

 

Tell us about your military background and why you joined the armed forces.
I received a full-ride college scholarship to Jacksonville University through the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). Upon graduation and commission as a Naval Officer in the U.S. Navy, I was stationed in Norfolk, VA onboard the USS Ramage (DDG 61), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. I spent my four years of service onboard the Ramage doing various leadership and management positions through two eight-month-long deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. I served in the Navy from May 2013 to November 2016.

 

What did you do upon initially separating from the military?
I was preparing for my current internship. The timing lined up so that I was able to complete my obligated term of service and then, shortly after, move to South Carolina for my current internship.

 

How did you learn about this program? What interested you or made you want to join?
In my search for a job, I stumbled upon the VetsWork internship program and it was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me the opportunity to help the environment, serve others through education, and build a network for a future career in the U.S. Forest Service.

 

Tell us a bit about what you’ve done while in the program.
I have served my entire internship at Sumter National Forest, Andre Pickens Ranger District as the Partnership and Volunteer Coordinator. I have had the opportunity to work and participate in various career development projects throughout my term of service. I have gained valuable experience in trail maintenance by working on trails throughout my district, participating in projects ranging from minor brushing, to installing cribbing, steps, and bridges on the trails.

I have also spent time with our wildlife specialist stocking fish and being involved in fish shocking to survey the fish population on the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River and the Chauga River on our district. Another partner on our district is our Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) Ranger, who works strictly in our designated wilderness area. I have gained experience working side-by-side with her to document, survey, and do trail maintenance in our wilderness area.

During my term of service, I have recertified in CPR/First Aid, received my chainsaw certification, and I have become a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

 

What have you enjoyed about this program? What are the benefits? What have been some of the challenges?
I have greatly enjoyed the exposure and experience I gain from all of the departments within the Forest Service. I get to work outdoors a good amount with my job responsibilities, and I love interacting with the public.

I am most definitely getting my foot in the door in a way that I would otherwise have a difficult time doing. If I were to try to apply for a position in Forest Service without a network of employees who know who I am and what I am capable of doing, it would be harder to build credibility. It is also difficult to translate my military experience to the Forest Service application, but, having worked with a lot of veterans in the Forest Service community, it is easier to get advice on how to translate my military experience.

A challenge that I have encountered is that there is so much to do and so little time to accomplish it in. Ten-and-a-half months is a great amount of time for my program, but, now that I am nearing the end, the time has flown by and I don’t know where it went. It is crazy to think of how much I have accomplished, but also how much I still have left to experience, learn, and get certified in.

 

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to do after you leave the program? 
The future is still a little foggy for me. I am planning on pursuing a job with the Forest Service, National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, or any other public lands conservation agency. So hopefully the end goal once I leave my program is to have a permanent position with a public lands agency.

 

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?
The sky is the limit for opportunities. There are tons of resources out there waiting to help veterans make that transition from military to civilian. You just have to go out and find them.

What you should know about joining a program like this is that you should see it through to completion. To ensure that future veterans have the same opportunities we have today, it is important to complete the program you join.

 

Honoring Veterans 2017: Erin Clay – U.S. Navy Veteran with Mt. Adams Institute and U.S. Forest Service

Meet Erin Clay – a U.S. Navy veteran serving with the VetsWork program at Mt. Adams Institute.

Tell us a bit about your personal background. Where are you originally from?
I was raised in Norfolk, VA. I wasn’t from a military family but, having grown up there, I felt comfortable and somewhat acclimated to the Navy.

Tell us about your military background and why you joined the armed forces.
I was in the Navy from 2003-2008, assigned to a FA-18 A/C squadron that deployed with the USS Enterprise.

What did you do upon initially separating from the military?
I worked a couple jobs before deciding to pursue my degree using the GI Bill.

How did you learn about this program? What interested you or made you want to join?
I actually found the program on Indeed while looking for outdoor industry jobs. I had previously worked with the Forest Service and had enjoyed my work, so I was definitely interested in doing this kind of work again.

Tell us a bit about what you’ve done while in the program.
I am assigned to the James River & Warm Springs Ranger Districts and typically work out of Covington, VA. While I’ve been here, I have done a lot of trail projects, wildlife projects, developed recreation maintenance, and I have led a Youth Conservation Corps crew over the summer.

My favorite set of skills that I’ve developed over the term would be related to structural trail maintenance. I also got to participate in some wildland firefighting training and obtained the Leave No Trace Master Educator credential.

What have you enjoyed about this program? What are the benefits? What have been some of the challenges?
The best thing about the VetsWork program is the ability to delve into and develop skills and knowledge in a lot of different program areas. The challenge is that, coming in from the outside, you may not know what is available to you and you have to be self-advocating about seeking out and obtaining the training and experience that interests you.

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to do after you leave the program? 
Next year I will be returning to the program at another Ranger District. Eventually I will pursue permanent employment with the Forest Service or another federal land management agency.

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?
Getting tapped into a work program specifically for veterans is the best thing you can do, because there are lots of opportunities and resources that you might not be aware of and veterans programs will help you identify which resources will be the most beneficial to you.

There will be cultural challenges crossing over from military to civilian work life, especially concerning chain of command, personal ambition and autonomy, and pace of work. Some of these will set you apart, others will frustrate you. Try not to let single issues get you down and be patient with your transition.

 

Honoring Veterans 2017: Joshua Metzger – U.S. Air Force Veteran with Arizona Conservation Corps

Meet Joshua Metzger a U.S. Air Force veteran serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Veterans Fire Corps program at Arizona Conservation Corps.

 

Tell us a bit about your personal background. Where are you originally from?
I am originally from a small town in central Pennsylvania. I went to Selinsgrove Area High School where I was a member of the marching band, honors choir, and German club. I have been a volunteer firefighter for Dauntless Hook and Ladder Company since I was 15 years old.

 

Tell us about your military background and why you joined the armed forces.
I served in the United States Air Force as an aircraft hydraulics mechanic (2A655) on the C-17 Globemaster. I was stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, but also spent time deployed at Thumrait, Oman.

I joined the military because public service and sacrifice have always been instilled in me by my parents. I also wanted to be part of something bigger than myself and serve in the world’s greatest military.

 

What did you do upon initially separating from the military?
After leaving the military, I initially lived with my parents and worked as a butcher’s apprentice in my hometown. I have had many jobs after leaving the military, and I’ve always found them to be too easy and without a sense of purpose.

 

How did you learn about this program? What interested you or made you want to join?
I learned about this program by researching fire crews after leaving the military. The fact that this program offered such comprehensive work experience and training made it such a good program to move forward in my career.

 

Tell us a bit about what you’ve done while in the program.
So far, I have worked on projects within the Lincoln National Forest, and Coronado National Forest. These projects have included trail/corridor work, forest thinning projects, and preparation for prescribed burns (including constructing fire lines both with hand tools and saws, and “snag felling” – or bringing down hazardous dead trees and branches). This program has taught me many useable conservation and firefighting skills, like tool maintenance, how to properly handle a chainsaw, and how to construct a fire line with a hand crew. I have earned my Firefighter Type 2 (FFT2) certification while serving in this program.

 

What have you enjoyed about this program? What are the benefits? What have been some of the challenges?
I have enjoyed the structure this program offers and the purpose it puts back into my life. I have been challenged from the very start of this program, both physically, by the work and PT, and mentally, with all the information about the work, forest, and firefighting training.

 

What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to do after you leave the program?
After this program ends, I plan on working for an Interagency Hotshot Crew during the 2018 fire season. Hopefully, after working for a that type of crew, I can truly become a better firefighter and have a better understanding about how wildfires affect the nation.

 

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 tell other veterans that most jobs within the civilian sector will not offer them the profound camaraderie and purpose that a program like this can create. Other veterans should know that they can gain a wealth of knowledge about firefighting and conservation work while serving in this program. They should also know that this program will provide them with a strong set of training and job experience that they can use to advance their career.

Honoring Veterans 2017: Sigifredo Cornejo – Marine Corps and Arizona Conservation Corps

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 CorpsVeterans 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.

Honoring Veterans 2017: Dawn Duman – Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps

Dawn Duman

My name is Dawn Duman. I grew up in Newark, DE. I joined the United States Air Force in 2004.  After graduating high school and working for a few years, I wanted to do something more with my life. I had thought about the military in high school, but was never too serious about it. Joining the Air Force was one of the best decisions I ever made. I served for four years and, during that time, lived in Virginia and Turkey as a military photographer.

After separating from the military, I decided to use my education benefits and went to college to earn a bachelor’s degree. I spent four years going to school while also raising my two daughters.

Most of my work experience has been in an indoor, office environment. After finding myself unemployed in 2017, I received an email about AmeriCorps Veterans Conservation Corps from my local Veterans representative at the Department of Labor. I thought it would be a good opportunity to not only work, but get some exercise while doing it. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone.

During my time with the Veterans Conservation Corps, I have learned about different types of plants and how to either preserve or remove them. I have learned how to properly and safely use herbicide chemicals, operate a chainsaw, and have done a lot of hiking! This program is physically challenging, but that is one of the reasons I signed up for it, so I can’t complain.

I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many other Corps members from the numerous state parks throughout Delaware. In my opinion, this program is very good for networking. I greatly enjoy working with other Veterans and family members of Veterans. The program has a sense of camaraderie that I experienced in the military. I would recommend this program to other Veterans who are willing to work hard and have a good time doing so.

As for my future, I am not completely sure of where I would like to take my career. I enjoy working in the parks and believe that if I want to pursue a career with Delaware State Parks, this program will help me get a step closer to achieving my goal.

Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps Testifies on Benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps During House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Hearing on Recreation Not Red Tape Act”

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony

WASHINGTON, DC (October 3, 2017) – Kevin Heiner, Associate Director of Southwest Conservation Corps, a member organization of the 21CSC, testified today about the benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing about H.R.3400 – the “Recreation Not Red Tape Act.”

Introduced in July by House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), H.R.3400 aims to, as stated in a memo on the hearing, “increase access to recreational opportunities for Americans nation-wide by 1) modernizing and streamlining the special recreation permitting process; 2) holding land managers accountable for recreation outcomes; 3) establishing a new National Recreation Area System; 4) increasing veteran participation in outdoor stewardship and rehabilitation programs; and by 5) facilitating private-sector volunteer maintenance programs on our nation’s public lands. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate (S.1633) by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Kevin Heiner, a U.S. Air Force Veteran who began working with Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) in 2008, spoke about the benefits of the Veterans Fire Corps programs operated by SCC and its parent organization, Conservation Legacy.

Veterans Corps, such as those run by Conservation Legacy, are designed to give participants the opportunity to build on their military experience and ethic for service by training for careers in resource management. The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants transition back to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services.

Since 2009, Veterans Conservation Corps programs across the country have engaged more than 1,600 veterans in conservation service and job training through partnerships with such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In his testimony, Mr. Heiner spoke appreciatively of the provisions in H.R.3400 that would expand opportunities for veterans to engage in outdoor stewardship. He also encouraged the committee to consider the 21CSC Act (H.R.2987), which would also help support and create opportunities for veterans and young adults to serve on public lands and gain in-demand skills.

An excerpt from Mr. Heiner’s testimony:

We are appreciative of the provisions in HR 3400, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, that would encourage information be provided on Corps opportunities to veterans and service members, expand volunteer and outdoor engagement, and opportunities for veterans and the public to recreate in new areas. We see significant potential to expand Corps’ engagement with veterans through enhanced partnerships with other Department of Interior agencies, and additional focus on recruiting with Department of Veterans Affairs, DOD and the Department of Labor. 

We also support the focus in the RNR Act on hiring veterans in land management positions. In addition to their veterans hiring preference, they can earn non-competitive hiring eligibility for two years from service in a Corps as well. Veterans Corps programs can offer an important bridge to civilian life and job skills, but also a way for veterans and their families to engage more with the outdoors, recreation, and America’s public lands. 

That is why in addition to the importance of the RNR Act provisions around veterans, we hope the committee will give additional attention to expanding the opportunity for veterans to serve in Corps, gain in-demand skills, and address high-priority projects, like would be accomplished through the bipartisan 21ST Century Conservation Service Corps Act – HR 2987 – introduced by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) a veteran herself. We also thank Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) of this committee who is an original co-sponsor.

 

Click here to watch a recording of the hearing
Click here to read Mr. Heiner’s full testimony

 

Veterans Corps Discussed at Capitol Hill Briefing Hosted by House Outdoor Recreation Caucus and Outdoor Industry Association on Veterans and the Outdoors

Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy & Co-Chair of Partnership for 21CSC, joined panelists from several outdoor and veteran-related organizations to discuss model and benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps programs.


WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 22, 2017)
– Amy Sovocool, Co-CEO of Conservation Legacy and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC, discussed the model and benefits of Veterans Conservation Corps at a September 14 Capitol Hill briefing on Veterans and the Outdoors. The event was hosted by the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus and supported by the Outdoor Industry Association.

The briefing focused on exploring how nature is used to help veterans heal, develop a sense of community, reintegrate into civilian life, and connect with the people and places they fought to protect.

Since 2009, Veterans Conservation Corps programs across the country have engaged more than 1,600 veterans in conservation service and job training through partnerships with such agencies as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Veterans Corps are designed to give participants the opportunity to build on their military experience and ethic for service by training for careers in resource management. The Corps model benefits veterans in a range of ways: it provides a similar structure and sense of purpose as the military; offers the therapeutic benefits of getting outdoors and working with fellow veterans; and helps participants transition back to civilian life through skills development and other supportive services.

In a 2016, 90 percent of veterans surveyed indicated that Corps opportunities helped them transition from military to civilian life. The Veterans Corps model also benefits public lands and the outdoor economy by completing important maintenance and improvement projects that increase access to recreation opportunities.

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is an initiative to expand public-private partnerships to annually engage 100,000 young adults and veterans in Corps. The 21CSC Act (S.1403, H.R.2987) – a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would help support this goal – was introduced by several former service members, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a U.S. Navy veteran; Rep. Marth McSally (R-AZ), a U.S. Air Force veteran; and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. The 21CSC initiative also has the backing of retired four-star U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal.

With crews based in Colorado and Arizona, Conservation Legacy’s Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) program offers post-9/11 veterans the opportunity to gain training and work experience in forestry and wildland firefighting through an AmeriCorps term of service. During a three to five-month-long term, VFC participants serve alongside fellow former military members on fuels mitigation and wildland firefighting projects. Corpsmembers spend up to eight days at a time living and working outdoors.

“Outdoor Industry Association was honored to be part of the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus briefing on veterans and the outdoors” said Jessica Wahl, Government Affairs Manager for the Outdoor Industry Association.  “There is a deep connection between the outdoors and our country’s veterans and OIA thanks the caucus co-chairs Congressman Simpson and Congressman Polis for shining a light on this important issue. W.L. Gore & Associates and other outdoor businesses are committed to supporting veterans and active military through their products and programs and we hope to continue engaging OIA members on this issue.”

“We thank Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Jared Polis, the members of the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus, and the Outdoor Industry Association for hosting this important conversation on the intersection of America’s veterans and the great outdoors,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President and CEO of The Corps Network and Co-Chair of the Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. “Veterans Conservation Corps programs address several issues faced by returning military. In addition to offering former service members the healing experience of spending time outdoors among fellow veterans, Corps help veterans leverage skills learned in the military to extend their ethic of service into careers in service to our public lands. The bipartisan, bicameral 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act would help create even more opportunities for post-9/11 veterans to benefit from programs like the VFC.”

“Service to our public lands helps veterans re-establish themselves,” said Sovocool. “Many veterans exit the military hoping to find a new mission and sense of purpose, but they are unsure where to turn. Through programs like the Veterans Fire Corps, former service members find a new mission protecting and maintaining access to some of our country’s most treasured national parks and forests. Public lands are more than a place for recreation; they are a point of national pride. Pride in our country is important to our veterans. I thank the House Outdoor Recreation Caucus, the Outdoor Industry Association, and my fellow panelists for helping shed light on the important role the outdoor community can play in assisting America’s veterans in their transition back to civilian life.”

The bipartisan House Outdoor Recreation Caucus was created in April 2017 with the goal of “encourage[ing] healthy, active lifestyles that foster an appreciation of America’s lands and waters and support local communities through outdoor recreation. The caucus is chaired by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).

###

About the 21CSC
The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is a bipartisan, national initiative to leverage public-private relationships for cost-effective maintenance and improvement of America’s infrastructure, lands and waters. The 21CSC envisions partnerships between resource management agencies and Corps: organizations that engage America’s young adults and veterans in work-based national service projects that restore, conserve and enhance infrastructure and public lands and waters.

The 21CSC is an easy-to-implement solution to America’s aging infrastructure that also develops the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, recreationists, sportsmen and women, and resource managers. While gaining in-demand skills through their service, Corps participants also build respect and appreciation for our country, hard work, and the outdoors. To learn more about the 21CSC, please visit www.21csc.org.

 

About Conservation Legacy
Conservation Legacy is a national organization that cultivates local action to produce enduring widespread impact in communities, ecosystems and people. Conservation Legacy operates locally-based programs that provide service and work opportunities for a diverse group of individuals to complete important conservation and community projects for the public benefit. Founded in 1998 to continue the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, Conservation Legacy programs include Arizona Conservation Corps, BRIDGE Network, Great Appalachian Valley Conservation Corps, Southwest Conservation Corps, Southeast Conservation Corps and Preserve America Youth Summits. For more information, please visit www. conservationlegacy.org.

 

About The Corps Network
The Corps Network, the national association of Service and Conservation Corps, provides leadership and support to over 130 Corps across the United States. Through advocacy, and providing Corps access to funding opportunities and expert guidance, The Corps Network annually enables more than 25,000 Corpsmembers to strengthen communities, improve the environment and transform their lives through service. To learn more about The Corps Network, please visit www.corpsnetwork.org.

 

 

 

Honoring Veterans: Verna Gonzales

verna-gonzales

Every year, many returning veterans continue their service to our country by participating in 21CSC programs. Several 21CSC member organizations operate programs specifically designed to engage former military service members in public lands stewardship. Throughout November, we will feature stories about some of these programs and the extraordinary people who serve in them. 

From Mt. Adams Institute – 

I was born and raised in Texas, but was recently living in Denver, Colorado.  I was enlisted in the Army from 2009-2013 as a Civil Affairs Specialist (commonly mistaken for Public Affairs). Prior to the Army I put myself through my undergraduate degree with a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008 and post Army, I forced myself to somehow complete my Masters of Science in the Administration of Security and Justice.  The Criminal Justice field was unfortunately not my cup of tea and so I am now falling back on my love of Anthropology.

I was not looking for a change in career when I stumbled upon the Craigslist ad for the VetsWork AmeriCorps program through the Mt. Adams Institute, but it was so enticing in fact, that I applied the next day. I had lost a sense of service to the country I love so much (that I had experienced while in the Army), that jobs I took on after the Army, were just that.  They were jobs.  My goal is to start a career in a field that I love and provide a service to my community.

Taking that step in drastically changing my career path felt risky. I’ve done archaeological field work in the past, but it mostly involved curation. I am currently assigned to Joseph, OR at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  I am in the middle of nowhere and it is beautiful; a little piece of the U.S. untouched by traffic lights, major crime, and major retail stores.

Week one of the program was amazing.  Our orientation into the program consisted of housing all the VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns into one bunk house filled with awkward laughter-filled introductions, motivational talks, necessary paperwork, and outdoor activities. Best of all the first week allowed us to grow a network that will probably last a lifetime.  I got to meet men and women with similar backgrounds and the greatest motivational and supporting team ever (no coaxing for me to tell you that, it’s the big hardy truth).

A summer thunderstorm rolls into Hell's Canyon

A summer thunderstorm rolls into Hell’s Canyon

Two and half months into the program and the home sickness kicked in. I started to experience what my sponsor called “Dog Withdrawals” (due to the fact I had to leave my dogs back home to be taken care of by a loved one in Colorado).  Working miles away from home and temporarily departing from those you love has made me realize something I wish to pass on to future VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns: Do not foist yourself into feeling that you abandoned those you love. Think of this as an opportunity for advancement.  An advancement that is going to put you and those you love in a better position in life whether it be financially or just simply having the satisfaction that you are doing something you can make a difference in.  I am blessed to have friends, family, and loved ones back me up on this decision 100%.

The number one most treasured thing about the internship is being able to get a first-hand glimpse at the work involved in this Archeology position with the Forest Service.  I can pick and choose the sides I like and the sides I do not like, and am able to make a clearer decision on the next steps I’ll be taking.  Today I will be taking steps to help my strength and stamina for next week’s back-country trip (I’m just going on a 2 hour hike after work). Next month I will be taking tons of GIS classes to help grow my knowledge base in the technology needed for this position.  Next year I hope to enroll at Adams State University for their Master’s program in Cultural Resource Management.

Taking a break as we cross one of the beautiful rivers in the Wallowa Mountains.

Taking a break as we cross one of the beautiful rivers in the Wallowa Mountains.

My supervisor, Tony, has been an awesome mentor and I cannot thank him enough for putting up with all my questions.  Which reminds me, for those future VetsWork AmeriCorps Interns: Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of! I’m getting quite comfortable with mapping, the pace and compass method, using GPS technology, and my overall map reading skills have definitely seen some improvement. On the personal side, I was able to receive guests this summer which helped boost my mood ten-fold.  Seeing familiar faces and introducing them to a little slice of heaven was definitely needed!

In the future, I hope to utilize the training that my sponsor, coworkers, and mentors have bestowed on me and push forward in a career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or Archaeology. The potential of doing what I love, learning and getting out in the field is turning out to be a dream career possibility.

Mormon Flat Cabin from the early 1900s.

Mormon Flat Cabin from the early 1900s.

Learning how to restore windows in historic structures.

Learning how to restore windows in historic structures.