Wildfire training for military veterans

Veterans Green Corps
Veterans Green Corps. Photo: Southwest Conservation Corps

The Southwest Conservation Corps is administering a job training program for veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Called the Veterans Green Corps, the 12 to 14 week course helps them to gain experience in natural resource and wildland fire careers. Here is an excerpt from an article at www.good.is:

Military experience sometimes translates poorly onto civilian resumes. Sarah Castinada, a former Army medic, used to jump out of planes into drop zones with the 82nd Airborne. Specialist Tony Lagouranis served as an Army interrogator in Iraq. Lew Sovocool, an officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, possesses technical skills attractive to employers, but will likely never replicate the level of responsibility he had as a program manager of a $200 million Afghan Army infrastructure program.

Many vets are still dealing with the psychological effects of war—19 percent of all troops returning from Iraq and 11.3 percent coming home from Afghanistan suffer mental health problems—and some VGC corpsmembers claim the time spent outdoors among fellow veterans has helped alleviate anxiety and post traumatic stress. For most though, VGC simply speaks to the sense of valor, unity, and service that first attracted them to the military.

Amy Foss, Southwest Conservation Corps’ Director of Operations, recounts the words she hears repeatedly from these vets, “I’m not broken. I don’t need help. I need job skills.”

The work isn’t easy. For some, cutting firebreaks and sawyering ladder fuels (combustible vegetation like dead trees) is the hardest test of their endurance since basic training. VGC corpsmembers attend chainsaw training, fire behavior, and wildland firefighting courses through local forest partners to earn their “Red Cards.” With this qualification and experience, they can build toward adrenaline-rich positions on hotshot and smokejumper crews suppressing wildfires from land and air. Coupling their certifications from VGC with a veterans’ preference for employment at federal agencies, a future in wildland fire mitigation holds real promise.

Below is a video that features an interview with Sarah Castinada, a former Army medic.

Thanks Judy

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Wildfire training for military veterans”

  1. Glad to see my fellow veterans, (different war then mine) getting the training and chances they need to re-enter society.

    Thanks to these brave men and women for serving our country.


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