Preserve and Protect: Forestry Gives Vets a Chance to Serve on Native Soil Preserve and Protect: Forestry Gives Vets a Chance to Serve on Native Soil
Environment

Preserve and Protect: Forestry Gives Vets a Chance to Serve on Native Soil

by Sarah Stankorb

February 14, 2011

It’s morning in Colorado’s backcountry and time for PT (that's soldier-speak for physical training). Under a blue sky and alongside the yawning sway of ponderosa pines, half a dozen vets move with a shared rhythm. Their mission: help prevent forest fires.

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.

The program, in collaboration with Veterans Green Jobs, has received over $1M in federal support through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Highly replicable, it has already expanded to conservation corps in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Working with VGC, veterans protect local residents from the threat of catastrophic fire and defend the canopy to save old-growth ponderosa pines. At the same time, they are finding green pathways to what they desire most: continued, meaningful service. “We wanted to do more than just assimilate,” explains U.S. Navy veteran Derrick Charpentier, “We wanted to bring back that warrior spirit we had from the military, and show people that we can all really make a positive difference in this world.”

 

All photos courtesy Southwest Conservation Corps

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Preserve and Protect: Forestry Gives Vets a Chance to Serve on Native Soil