From Southwest Conservation Corps
After graduating from high school in Northern Illinois, Mitch decided to join the United States Marine Corps. He feels fortunate to have been deployed 11 times – eight of which were combat deployments – to a variety of places, including Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. During his time in the Marines, Mitch worked with four different infantry units and gained a great deal of experience. However, when he completed his service in 2012 and began looking for a civilian job, Mitch discovered that there were few careers where he could apply the skills he learned as an infantryman.
During his time in the military, Mitch got married and had two kids. Completing his service allowed him and his family to move to Alabama to give his kids the opportunity to get to know more of their relatives. Mitch was pursuing a degree in nursing when a friend told him about Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) and its AmeriCorps-based Veterans Fire Corps program. As his friend explained, the Corps would give Mitch the opportunity to learn about wildfires and get involved in careers in the outdoors. Mitch decided to apply and started with SCC in spring of 2015 along with the friend that had introduced the idea.
Mitch feels that SCC taught him a lot about wildland fire, conservation and living and working in the outdoors. Though he wasn’t completely sold on being in wildland fire as a long-term career, the Veterans Fire Corps program gave him some of the hard skills needed to be valuable for positions with federal land management agencies. His time with SCC also gave Mitch the opportunity to network with supervisors that work within the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Mitch isn’t certain about he wants to do after the Corps, but he knows he wants to continue working outdoors and eventually be able to find a permanent position with a land management agency somewhere in Colorado, where he and his family currently live.
From Southwest Conservation Corps, Durango, CO
As a kid, Kris remembers wanting to be a soldier, or a cowboy or a firefighter; always wanting to do something challenging and rewarding. He worked construction for a number of years in order to put himself through school in criminal justice. After finishing school he took time to see the world by serving in the Peace Corps in an agricultural program in Ecuador, and teaching English in China for several months. After returning to the United States, Kris started looking into the military and wanted to try his hand at the Special Forces; he felt drawn to how elite it felt, and how hard it would be to become successful. After more than a year of strenuous training, he was placed as a Special Forces engineer Sergeant with the 5th group at Fort Campbell, KY.
After three years and a couple of deployments, things started to slow down and deployments started to get cancelled. This led him start thinking about a career with a Hotshot Fire crew or as a Smokejumper, someone who parachutes into a remote region to fight wildfires. Kris started contacting supervisors to get some insight. During this time, Kris worked on getting all of the necessary certifications to serve on a fire crew, but he found it difficult to finalize many of the certifications without the required field days. His search led him to phone calls with a couple of Fire Management Officers who highly recommended the Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) program, an AmeriCorps program of Southwest Conservation Corps.
Kris ended up applying to the VFC program and started just two days after getting his terminal leave and finishing up with the military. He found the VFC program to be just what he needed to pursue a career in wildland firefighting. The certifications, work experience and networking would help set him up for success within the federal land management agencies. Kris is currently sending out resumes to several Hotshot crews that are stationed with Smokejumping units. He is about to start a month-long Emergency Medical Technician course that will prepare him even further for a job in wildland firefighting.
This summer we plan to highlight several of the participants in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC). Southwest Conservation Corps is a 21CSC program operator, and Radeanna Comb provided the following story. To view all Faces of the 21CSC stories, please click here.
Hello, my name is Radeanna Comb. I am currently part of the Southwest Conservation Corps Ancestral Lands Crew #642. Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) has given me the opportunity to develop new skills to develop my leadership skills and learn strategic decision making. Crew 642 consists of four women and one male crew leader. We are a group of individuals that bonded together to work well as team. Our crew had the ability to prioritize our goal on completing tasks to eliminate all Russian Olive and Tamarisk trees in washes near Fort Defiance, AZ, on the Navajo Reservation. As a team, we have developed effective problem solving, self-awareness, effective decision making, learning agility, communication skills, multi-tasking, integrity, and likeability to complete our work tasks. Continue reading
This summer we plan to highlight several of the participants in the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. To view all Faces of the 21CSC stories, please click here. The following story was provided by Maine Conservation Corps, a 21CSC program operator.
The Maine Conservation Corps’ Alumni are spread far and wide and often continue to work in conservation long after their time with us is done. Recently the MCC heard from Michelle DiMeglio whose life has been shaped by AmeriCorps and the MCC in many positive ways. Michelle currently works as a Youth Program Assistant for The Corps Network in partnership with the National Park Service. Her program works to expand opportunities for youth in National Parks.
Michelle was first drawn to the MCC due to its Trail Training Program. Having previously served with trail crews in California and Arizona, she wanted to gain more experience as a leader. The MCC’s training program prepared her for work with chainsaws, griphoist equipment, and the dynamics of leading a field crew. She was also certified as a Wilderness First Responder. She came away from the program with the skills and confidence to lead. Continue reading
The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Corps has selected several partners who work with 21CSC programs to recognize as “21st Century Conservation Service Corps Champions of the Week.” This week, Renee Benally, Natural Resource Specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Western Navajo Agency’s Branch of Natural Resources, kindly agreed to answer our questions about working with youth programs via email. Thanks to Renee for her support and insight!
Click here to meet our other 21CSC Champions of the Week.
Renee Benally, Natural Resource Specialist for the BIA’s Western Navajo Agency, stops for a photo at Navajo Bridge near Lee’s Ferry. Renee serves as the regional youth liason for the agency.
How long have you been working as a Natural Resource Specialist for the BIA’s Western Navajo Agency and how did you get started?
I have been working with the BIA Navajo Region Western Navajo Agency’s Branch of Natural Resources for 10 years as Natural Resource Specialist at Tuba City. I started my career as a research specialist at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Environmental Health Science Center where I was exposed to superfund projects and learned about environmental toxicology. This position was only for 2 years so I had to find another job. I applied for my current position due to its close proximity to my mom and it involved ways to improve the Navajo Nation at the macro-level. This is my way of contributing back to my community. Continue reading