Written by Brian Doughty and Jennifer Swann, SCA Conservation Corps programs.
As Veterans Day approaches and the nation honors the brave men and women from the past and present who have served in the armed forces, it is fitting that we highlight one of SCA’s newest initiatives—the Veterans Green Corps (VGC).
The ultimate goal of the VGC is to enable former members of the armed services to transition into civilian life by providing job training, personal development, and conservation service opportunities in natural resource and wildland fuels management.
There are currently two SCA VGC teams in Prescott and Springerville, Arizona. These teams have been in the field since the last week of August and will be wrapping up their service in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.
The teams have been working with U.S. Forest Service wildland fire crews to reduce hazardous fuels in and around urban areas. Their training included Wildland Fire Fighting, Wilderness First Aid, chainsaw operation, conservation ethics, environmental education, group dynamics, and conflict resolution. Additionally, the veterans on these teams have enhanced their ability to pursue future employment with the U.S. Forest Service by becoming familiar with U.S. Forest Service history, operations, and hiring procedures – not to mention gaining valuable hands-on experience.
The VGC members on these teams represent a diverse cross section of today’s veterans. The Corps Members range in age from 22 to 36, come from all branches of the Armed Services, have attained ranks from Private First Class to First Lieutenant, and have worked in various positions ranging from Combat Infantryman to Submarine and Nuclear Propulsion Technicians.
These men and women who make up the VGC made the decision to continue their service to their country by exchanging rifles and fatigues for chainsaws and Nomex. Their experience has been carefully guided by our dedicated staff members Jennifer Swann (and Jill Kolodzne before her), Brian Doughty and Mike Stefancic – with a whole lot of help from others, particularly on the recruiting front.
Please join SCA in extending our appreciation to all veterans as we observe Veterans Day on Friday, November 11. Thank you to all the Veterans and the service they provide to our nation.
Follow the Prescott National Forest Veteran's Corps and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Veteran's Corps through their adventures with SCA.
Written by April Hamblin, SCA '11 Yellowstone National Park, as part of the National Park Service Academy. The NPS Academy is a partnership between SCA and NPS designed to build a 21st century workforce for America's national parks: highly motivated, contemporarily skilled, and ethnically diverse.
Me, GIS and maps at Yellowstone.
Opportunities are spoken of often, yet one must pursue these opportunities to even have a chance. SCA and the National Park Service (NPS) are organizations that help people take hold of opportunities. These organizations worked together to make my summer at Yellowstone National Park unforgettable.
My work over the summer was mainly for NPS as a Biological (Entomology) and GIS Intern. This basically meant that I would be working with the pollinator survey as well as various projects involving GIS and maps. I came to Yellowstone with this idea in mind, hoping that I could learn quickly and gain hands-on experience with GIS systems and mapping.
First day of work. The view outside my window.
Most days I usually wondered what the day had in store for me because while the GIS workers had a set schedule of hours, most of us did not have set daily activities. For the first three weeks, when my background check was not cleared to use government computers, my days were spent traveling around Yellowstone collecting GPS points of interpretational signs and recycling areas throughout the park as well as filing bee related paperwork. I learned how to use GPS units and the software associated with each. I was also trained in general Yellowstone protocol such as how to use bear spray, how to react to approaching animals and other safety regulations, and how to use a radio.
Once I received clearance and was able to use a government computer, I began taking GIS training courses online, was able to help others with their projects on the computer, and started working more with my own projects. The two main projects that the GIS department laid in my hands were the pollinator survey and the grave survey.
My day putting out bee bowls for the pollinator survey. Am I really getting paid to be here?
The pollinator survey is a bee survey conducted by a scientist named Sam Droege and occurred in about 60 other national parks as well as Yellowstone. It was very exciting and humbling to work on this project. All of the bees I collected will forever have my name associated with them. I feel honored and appreciated. This pollinator survey was my deciding factor in accepting this internship and was my favorite part of working at Yellowstone.
I have to admit, when I was first given the grave survey, I thought that it would be upsetting. While it got a bit gloomy when an entire day was spent at a graveyard, it was also very interesting. Graves hold culture and history, emotions and lives. I did not appreciate their art before starting this work.
Working at Yellowstone really opened my eyes to career options. Yellowstone will always be a special place for me.
All of the work that I completed for the NPS and SCA has let me grow mentally and personally, literally altering parts of my life with this experience. I was able to work with the NPS and the SCA in the first national park, Yellowstone.
While this is just a story of my experience, there is a much larger picture here. The NPS and SCA are two organizations that focus on conserving nature for the future. With the interns, volunteers, employees, and support, the NPS and SCA are able to do this and more; they are able to motivate the current population with their leadership to take action and become environmentally friendly. Not only will the national parks be conserved, but the entire natural world could be conserved for the future generations.
View pictures from the NPS Academy Alternative Spring Break session in March at Grant Teton National Park.
Written by guest blogger Micah Berman, '11 SCA National Crew, while in Alaska. Micah was a high school graduating Senior from New Hampshire during this trip. He is currently a Freshman at the University of Vermont.
As I'm sitting here next to this peaceful lake, way up in the back country of Alaska, I realize that I am at home. My entire life, I've considered one place home: where my family , my pets, and friends are, where my parents cook dinner and my sister makes me laugh, the woods of New Hampshire. I've grown up in a great life, one I never hesitate to come back to. Where I've adapted the backcountry skills of a true New Hampshire-ite, made lifelong friends, and everything else I could ask for.
Before this trip I never had a reason to expand my home. I didn't think I could fit more space into it. Yet, after spending 30 amazing days with 7 other great people, I came to a realization. Yes, where I've grown up is where I will always go back to, to rebirth old memories of times forgotten. It will be where I harbor some of my experiences most dear to me. However, that's my physical home. The home I discovered here in Alaska, and the one I will carry with me to college and beyond belongs in my heart. And, it is constantly expanding, accepting new people, experiences and ideas that will continue to redefine my life.
I realized this after hearing the simple barking of a squirrel. It reminded me of my dogs barking at home to be let in, then out, to have food, etc. As I heard this I began to realize that the amazing friends I made here were also my brothers and sisters. Not metaphorically, but for real. My leaders acted as my parents always looking out for me and making sure I accepted and took on serious responsibilities. We cooked, cleaned, laughed, slept, and did everything normal I would at my own home. This realization helped make me stronger. I realized I could never really be homesick or feel alone because everyone I meet can change my life and I can carry their teachings and love with me.
The friends I made here may never have been ones I would have made in "real life." I love them all, yet all our different tastes and preferences may not have permitted us to be friends in the "real" or "normal" world. I find that sad - that the norms of society can determine our friendships- but at the same time I can learn from this. I've learned that I need to expand my horizons and be more open to people and ideas; you never know which seemingly insignificant experience may change your life.
The wildlife I've seen here, the wise experiences I've learned from building perfect trails and finishing jobs is something amazing I will take with me. And, I couldn't have done this without SCA and its supporters. The opportunity SCA provided me with is impossible to express in words and I can't thank you enough. The lessons I've learned and friends I've made is all I could ask for, and I owe it to SCA and to all the people who make SCA possible. Thank you so much.
Written by guest blogger Dan Perez (MA Parks '07, Acadia and Golden Gate '08 and ID AmeriCorps '11) and adapted from a speech he gave at the SCA Idaho AmeriCorps Recognition Ceremony in Oct 2011.
It wasn’t all that long ago that a rag-tag caravan of fourteen cars pulled into this very parking lot, almost six hours after an early morning departure from Boise. The license plates (and airline ticket stubs) said it all: East Coast, West Coast, Midwest and Rockies – in other words, a fairly mixed group of individuals from around the country.
I can’t speak for everyone with regard to their unique situations that led to their joining this fifteen-member crew, but it would be a safe bet that their primary reasons fell under the categories of personal growth and professional experience.
Becoming a member of SCA Idaho AmeriCorps is by no means the only way to pursue these goals. We could have gotten jobs, in spite of the economy, for better pay and without having to uproot our current lives, and not resulting in friends and family expressing mock concern at our spending six months in Idaho "growing potatoes." So the question that remains is, “Why?”
Having pondered this question myself before I got accepted into this program, I can offer some answers of my own:
These are my own thoughts, but I hope at least the essence of my last point rings true for my fellow corps members. We all have every right to expect – nay, to gain something useful out of our experiences over the last six months, like how to be a leader for a team of your peers, or how to adapt and overcome when faced with a situation that is entirely out of your control – for instance, a forest fire.
But perhaps more importantly, this is a service position, from which – like any experience in life – you have gained as much as you’ve put in; just by being here, fulfilling that promise we all made in Boise, we are now Americans who have volunteered to serve, and even though our time here is done, may we always find a way to serve, and may we never stop asking ourselves, “Why?”
To read more of Dan's adventures this summer with SCA, check out the Idaho Americorps blogs.
This post is written by SCA Conservation Corps members of the Veterans Fire Corps in Arizona
What follows is the tale of six inspiring individuals, dedicated to a life of service, who share a connection to the land and have made a commitment to the people who live there. Their quest is a courageous endeavor, the challenge of controlling wildland fire in Arizona's most beautiful and equally unforgiving terrain. The Student Conservation Association, in partnership with Prescott National Forest of Arizona, is pioneering a new program, the Veterans Fire Corps (VFC), to complete fire & fuels management projects.
Bearing down on the standoff between wildfire and the wildland-urban interface, The VFC readily takes action. When weather, wind, and vegetation conditions align, they harness the power to control fire in their struggle to find a balance with Mother Nature. Some would call them idealists, many call them Heros, but one thing is clear: When history has passed and all that we know has come to fade away, the mountains of Prescott National Forest will stand eclipsed under the shadow of these giants known as the VFC. This is their story.
The VFC is working with Prescott National Forest to improve ecosystem health, rangeland conditions, wildlife habitat, and reduce the threat and adverse effects of wildland fire while also providing recent-era Veterans with the training, credentials and experience they need to competitively pursue wildland fire and/or forestry careers. The VFC is working on a variety of projects including; tree thinning, mechanical brush clearing, and prescribed fire.
Check back to read the crew's story as the struggle to find a balance between nature and wildfire in Arizona. Read more of their tales on the Veteran's Fire Corps blog.