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.
When Chandler Goering moved to Arizona, he knew he wanted to get into wildland firefighting. After serving in the Army National Guard, including two years of active duty as an Infantry Sergeant in Iraq and Kuwait, he earned a degree in fire science and started applying for jobs. When he couldn’t find the sort of job opportunity he was looking for, a recruiter told him about the Veteran Fire Corps program with the Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC), explaining that it was a good way to get a foot in the door and gain practical skills.
Chandler will complete his six-month AmeriCorps term on November 11th. He will have spent a season working on a fuels mitigation crew for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on three districts in Arizona, put in hundreds of hours running a chainsaw in the process, and completed coursework for all Firefighter I & II certifications. When the program ends, Chandler will return home to Minnesota for the winter where he has accepted an EMT position. He plans to spend this time applying for wildland firefighting jobs for the 2016 season.
The practical skills Chandler gained aren’t the only valuable aspect of his AmeriCorps experience. When asked what he’ll remember most about his time with Arizona Conservation Corps, Chandler talks about people: being part of a crew, being more sociable, and interacting with project managers and fire personnel within the BLM. He learned about different career opportunities and how to be more successful applying for positions. Chandler also made connections with public lands management employees who offered to refer him to hiring managers and put in a good word.
Nearly all alumni who have applied for firefighter positions after exiting the Veteran Fire Corps program have succeeded in landing a position. Considering Chandler’s positive attitude and drive, we’re expecting that he will be on a wildfire crew next summer.
The California Conservation Corps enrolls veterans to assist with firefighting efforts as an official program of 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.
At a California Conservation Corps center in the Sierra foothills, 50 military veterans were put through their paces this week, mastering a 40-hour wildland fire training led by members of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
After completing the course, the veterans became part of the nationwide Veterans Green Corps, that also includes veterans in the Student Conservation Association and the Southwest Conservation Corps. Many Corps programs have also developed Veterans Conservation Corps programs with other partners including Rocky Mountain Youth Corps (Colorado), Montana Conservation Corps, Maine Conservation Corps, Nevada Conservation Corps, Washington Conservation Corps, Utah Conservation Corps and Western Colorado Conservation Corps. These programs are all part of the new 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.