An Interview with Veteran Fire Corps members: Love and Goodwin


James Love enlisted in the Marines straight out of high school, just over a decade ago. As previously assigned, the Missouri native’s first day of boot camp was September 11, 2001. Following eight years in uniform, including two tours of Iraq, Sgt. Love joined SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps, a transitional career training program for young military vets, where he continued his service to country by fighting and mitigating wildfires in national forests.

What kind of work are you doing?
Our work so far has been in the Kaibab National Forest based out of Williams, Arizona. We have two prescribed burn units and one thinning unit located within the Wildland Urban Interface surrounding the city of Williams.

What’s a typical day like?
At Holden Lake, our objectives were to cut down Ponderosa Pine trees measuring less than nine inches in diameter at breast height and any oaks and junipers measuring less than eight inches in diameter. Due to fire restrictions, chainsaw operation only occurred until 11:00 each morning and the rest of the day would be spent hand-piling all limbs and felled trees for a future prescribed burn.

What led you to SCA?
Specifically, I was interested in the SCA Veterans Fire Corps because it was geared towards recent era military veterans, which meant I would be working with fellow veterans that have had similar experiences to my own, unlike 95% of the young college kids I am surrounded by in school.

Is the experience matching your expectations?
I am very happy with my position. I am not only fulfilling my internship requirement for college, but providing a service to the environment and giving back to the local community.

Has anything surprised you?
I would say that I am definitely surprised by just how serious everyone takes fire in Northern Arizona. It probably has to do with the fact that the city is literally surrounded by the forest. Everyone seems to be aware of the weather and local fire warnings.

How does this fit into your career plans?
My goal is to work for a federal agency so my time in the Marines counts towards my retirement and pension. The chance to find out if a future in the USFS is right for me is what’s motivating me to put forth all my effort.

Any final thoughts?
Just how much fun I am having while fulfilling my SCA service. This is not only a rewarding experience but a great learning tool for future goals. The hiking trails, national parks and monuments, and other attractions here are incredible and I’ll look back on this fondly for the rest of my life.

Twenty-three year old Davon Goodwin earned a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Badge during his four and a half years of service in the US Army Reserve, which included combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pittsburgh native was part of SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps at Kaibab National Forest in Arizona.

After years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Fort Bragg, why choose SCA?
I have been working outdoors since I was a four years old. Gardening and plant biology have really been my focus and passion throughout the years. I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and leadership I can offer, and it’s a great chance for me to get some experience with people who have a passion for nature and conserving it.

Are you enjoying the work?
‘All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that, and his quote sums up the whole SCA mission in some respects. I like that we are still giving back to our country by restoring and improving the conditions in our nation’s forests. To me, fuels monitoring has been the most rewarding and stimulating. As a biology and botany major, this work really tells you a lot about the current ecosystem and how it will burn and how fast.

Where do you go from here?
My career goals are to become an agronomist and help to make agriculture sustainable for the world. This internship has given me more time working in the field and also working with the government. Being in the Veterans Fire Corps has opened my eyes to the many different ecological impacts we inflict on our national forests.

And you this experience will help you meet those goals?
I have served my country in war and this gives me the ability to serve my country in a whole new way. I wanted to be a part of this program is because it gives me research experience in different fields that can make me more attractive for hiring.

Is there anything else you want people to know about you?
One thing that I would like people to know is that I’m a loving father of a son, and very hard worker with a never-give-up attitude. Being a service member has also given me a bigger sense of why I love being an American.