VetsWork: 1000 Hours In and a Month to Go. Finishing Strong.

Verna Gonzales

Over 1000 hours in and we are a little more than one month away from the end of the internship. The summer has been somewhat of a blur, but I am happy to announce that the job search has commenced and a few of those positions have been referred to the hiring manager. Just waiting on the phone call (s)… In the meantime, Tony has in store TONS of back country overnight trips which will test my physical strength, endurance, and definitely the knees.

img_20160707_113647Hells Canyon in early summer with a thunderstorm rolling in.

The views have been amazing and the people I’ve connected with are becoming bittersweet because I know I’ll have to leave soon to pursue my career and education. Let the good times roll, as the song says. I’m working hard, but hardly feel its effects as it is work that I am genuinely enjoying. The training experiences have been phenomenal. One included learning how to restore and repair historic windows.

img_20160624_064709Historic Window Training

The number one most treasured thing about the internship is being able to get a first-hand glimpse at the work involved in this Archeology position with the Forest Service. I can pick and choose the sides I like and the sides I do not like, and am able to make a clearer decision on the next steps I’ll be taking. Today I will be taking steps to help my strength and stamina for next week’s back-country trip (I’m just going on a 2 hour hike after work). Next month I will be taking tons of GIS classes to help grow my knowledge base in the technology needed for this position. Next year I hope to enroll at Adams State University for their Master’s program in Cultural Resource Management.

img_20160824_170505Mormon Flat Cabin Circa estimated early 1900s

My supervisor, Tony, has been an awesome mentor and I cannot thank him enough for putting up with all my questions. Which reminds me, for those future interns: Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of! I’m getting quite comfortable with mapping, the pace and compass method, using GPS technology, and my overall map reading skills have definitely seen some improvement. On the personal side, I was able to receive guests this summer which helped boost my mood ten-fold. Seeing familiar faces and introducing them to a little slice of heaven was definitely needed!


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Public Lands Stewards: “A Place, Sensed”


Joe Kobler

Perhaps it’s true that time, akin to Siddhartha’s eponymously patient river, ever flows in some boundless, ineffable cycle. Certainly, we find ourselves at a happy confluence, a coda in a different key, a second meeting made possible by the lambent glow of screens, the busy flurry of electrons, and the abstruse tangles of coding. Hello again, friends near, far, and yet unmet. I write to you as steam curls slowly upwards from a fresh cup of coffee and a steady October rain patters softly over Columbia National Wildlife Refuge outside Othello, Washington.


Here, under clouds of bruised pearl, sagebrush and stone form broad character strokes over a rugged canvas carved by the unfathomable wrath of the ancient Missoula floods. Bold umber buttes rise in sheer columns, looming over the golden grassed landscape yet dwarfed in turn by an unending arc of storm ridden horizon. The sky is its own country, fraught with cumulonimbus titans that billow and clash and swirl like the chaotic pallet of an artist in love with the color grey. The beauty of Columbia Refuge is in the severity of its features, in the stark lines of migrating birds, the lonesome song of coyotes calling through the canyons in the gathering dusk, and the broken bones of bare basalt that thrust forth from the earth.


With the dwindling days of the field season I plant native willows whose boughs will one-day bend to trail in the rippled rills that meander in the refuge low lands. The restoration of native trees and shrubs will improve habitat for the wealth of fauna that resides at Columbia; indeed, the lilting cries of marshland birds urge on excavations and swell in lullabies for roots newly nestled in silty soil. The labor is ongoing, but when completed, more than three thousand plants will have found new homes, each serving as a small benediction to the roughhewn grace of an ecosystem I have grown to cherish.


The native plant propagation program at Columbia is but one of several ecological projects and studies I have had the honor to participate in during my tenure with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Even as I write of it, my term as a Public Lands Steward with the Mt. Adams Institute is rapidly drawing to a close, the hours passing like so many autumn leaves falling from a wet black branch. I began my AmeriCorps position months ago with a simple idea, and should you attend to nothing else amidst my maudlin ramblings, faithful reader, mark this well, for it is important, and as close to the truth of things as I’m likely to come. The idea was a dream; and the dream was of a world made better, at least in some small way, by my service. I am proud to have begun a path towards that dream; proud of the sway of willows in the wind, the splash of Oregon Spotted frogs, and the ruffle of Greater Sandhill Crane feathers on a long flight South. I am also thankful; deeply thankful for my stalwart coworkers, for the support of Mt. Adams Institute, and above all for every single moment on this strange and wonderful earth.



Public Lands Stewards:  “Lessons from the Trail”

Jessy Mueller

As the season is coming to an end I am reflecting back to the last five months of living and working in the backcountry. Through this summer’s hard work I have grown a lot as a person. It didn’t come easy, but with some trial and error I can safely say there is a lot of life lessons I will be taking away from this Public Lands Stewards AmeriCorps experience.

The first life lesson came to me on a cold, 35 mph windy morning. My co-worker Azrael and I were setting up the ranger base camp at Lyman Lake in early July. There was still lots of snow on the ground, but it was melting fast. Two days prior our boss had hiked up with us showing us around, telling us different projects to work on and where to set up camp. The ranger camp consists of a large cook tent and a small 2 person sleeping tent. They are about 500 feet away from one another and to get from one tent to another we had to walk across a snow field. Our boss informed us there was a creek somewhere under the snow and showed us a long route to get from one tent to the other. Fast forward 2 days, our boss left us to finish setting up camp and acclimating ourselves to the area. It was 7:15 a.m. when I emerged from my tent, still half asleep with no coffee in my system I made the cold trek to the cook tent. It was very windy, and I see Azrael with all his strength trying to keep the large tent from blowing away because we did not stake down the tent properly. Mistake #1. I feel frantic and want to rush over to help him. The snow by now is melted by 50% and a direct trail to the cook tent is SLIGHTLY uncovered. It’s not the route that our boss showed us, but in my mind I should trust the trail, right? Wrong! Little did I know this path was created by previous rangers to get water from the creek. I am now thigh high in freezing cold water, in my boots and work clothes, trying to jump out on the snowy edge. Once I pull myself out, I unhappily walk up to Azrael thinking he saw the whole disaster, but he didn’t. Instead I hear “About time you got up! Its hurricane winds out here and the tent is ripping!” In the calmest voice I could manage I scream back “I just fell in the creek!” But I knew there was no time to waste. The only thing worse than trying to stake down a tent with no feeling in my fingers and toes would be going back to the office and explaining to our boss how we managed to break a tent on the first day of being unsupervised. So with soaking clothes we staked it down, managing only to put a few tears in the rain fly. An hour later I was finally able to put dry clothes on and warm up with some hot coffee. I can honestly say it was the worst morning of the whole summer, but some valuable life lessons were learned.

#1 – Always Listen to your boss when they show you a route to take. Even if you think you know a better way, most likely you don’t.

#2 – Don’t assume social paths have your best interest.

#3 – Don’t take short cuts

#4 – Always bring an extra pair of socks

#5 – Make sure to have coffee before making decisions in the morning.

The second major incident happened a few days later at the Holden Village ranger cabin. The project was too chop large logs into smaller pieces for the wood burning stove. Once everything was chopped you re-stack the logs in an organized pile next to the cabin. Easy enough. A coworker and I started the re-piling task, she would toss me the wood and I would stack it. I decided I didn’t need to wear my hard hat because I have stacked wood at home and never wore one, why would I now? About 30 minutes in we got in a groove, toss, catch, stack, toss, catch, stack. We got it down so well there wasn’t even a pause between each toss, leaving little room for error. Then it happened. A log slipped between my hands and fell on the ground. I should have let it go, picked it up later knowing that in a few short seconds another log would be flying towards me. But being mission driven, I had to pick it up. As I bend over I hear “JESSSSSSY!!” BAM. A small log hit my skull. I look at my co-worker, her face says it all. “What is my head bleeding?” I started to ask… but before I can finish my sentence blood comes rushing down my face. Luckily we were near a well-stocked first aid kit and I had a wilderness first responder tending to my wound. Another co-worker walks up to the situation and shakes his head. “Jessy, Jessy, Jessy. No PPE?” (PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, A.K.A my bright yellow hard hat.) Thankfully, all I got was a bump, a small cut and another life lesson learned.

#6- Always wear your PPE!

#7 – No matter how monotonous a task is always pay attention.

#8 – Don’t be afraid to tell your co-worker to slow down.

#9- Listen to your gut instinct. If your gut tells you to let the log go and pick it up later… pick it up later.

#10- Always carry a first aid kit.


I could go on and on with more stories from this summer and how I learned a few things, but I will keep it brief. Other major life lessons were, always bring 2 watches when you are rangering alone, especially if one of the watches was only $9 from Walmart. If you don’t, you might get really good at telling the time by the sun. Always bring your rain gear in your day pack, you never know when a storm decides to roll in for a whole work day. If you don’t, you will end up with soaked work clothes for a few days. Always double check you have everything packed in your backpack before you leave for a 9-day hitch in the backcountry. If you don’t you might forget your stove and have to eat uncooked cold oatmeal and coffee for breakfast every morning. Never leave your backpack in a rat infested shelter in the woods. If you do, your pack might smell like sour urine for the rest of the work week. And if you ever happen to find yourself wearing a Smokey Bear costume for a Fourth of July parade, while sitting on a bench in a back of a pick-up truck. Listen to the driver when they tell you not to stand up. If you don’t listen, the driver might slam on the breaks, making you fall behind the bench, on your back, with your feet and hands straight up in the air.

As you can see I have learned a lot this summer and will always remember these experiences. Glacier Peak Wilderness, you will always hold a special place in my heart.

Thanks AmeriCorps. Jessy out.


VetsWork: Thus far… On The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest


Allen AtkinsThus far I’ve had a wild and meaningful ride being partnered with the United States Forest Service through the Mt. Adams Institute, VetsWork AmeriCorps program. I have participated and played many vital roles in a wide variety of tasks and projects. Whether it be clearing trail on a national trail system, and almost getting bit by a snake, or mowing wildlife opening with heavy machinery and having the chance to observe bears and how they interact in the wild.

These are just some of the many projects that I have been a part of, it is never a dull moment and the opportunities across my district have been abundant. The training opportunities that I have had have helped greatly and those coupled with my practical hands on experience no doubt are going to make me competitive for future positions with the agency. Positions in various career fields that I never imagined could be possible when starting my journey with VetsWork program.


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VetsWork: “Fire Fever”

Darrin Grant

There is something that calls to the men and women who have served their country in the Armed Forces. It quietly gnaws at them from somewhere down deep where they can never quite understand it. From the beginning of time it was placed there, eons before their right hand was ever raised and the Oath of Enlistment sworn. Somehow it almost seems unfair that this group of fine folks was born with a feeling that leaves them unsatisfied outside the uniform, beyond the common brotherhood of a service.  However “the outside” as most veterans soon discover is called that for a lot of reasons. It is difficult even to describe for me and I have been out for over two years. I think the military is the single biggest paradox in the world. When you’re in most of the time you want out and when you finally get out for some inescapable reason you want back in; or at some level of the human psyche you think you do.


So what are we to do but live our lives and learn the lessons? The only question that sometimes comes to me late at night is this; at whose cost and what price will this lesson be learned? I am thankful for my wife’s unending patience and encouragement through all of this. I say this all the time, but it can never be said too much. Without the love and support of my family and the good Lord I would not be where I am today! I think that for a lot of veterans like myself there will never be another real job. I think that it’s important to note that I actually have a real job right now. What I mean is this; after being in charge of millions of dollars of equipment and squads or even platoons of personnel the prospect of a conventional 9-5 job does not sit well with most veterans. Additionally, some lack skill sets and experience required for the career path they may want to cross over to. For myself it was never a question of finding another career; it was finding something that I love doing again. There is a huge gap that appears when you transition out of the military and generally speaking the longer the enlistment time the more deployments and therefore the larger the gap. Unfortunately most of the veterans I know are people in that gap. The key is finding something to fill the gap that has similar experiences with the military and that you will enjoy.


                  As part of my internship I was fortunate enough to become Red Card certified and sent out west with a Wildland Firefighting crew. While in Wyoming our crew was able to help contain two different fires. Remember that gnawing little feeling? Since transitioning from the Army in 2014 I have been feeling it grow stronger each month. When I got to my first fire everything just sort of clicked, like I was supposed to be doing this and nothing else…that feeling was gone. Part of the reason I felt so at home is there are a lot of similarities between Wildland Firefighting and the Military. Too many to mention, really. However one is significant to me: in the beginning of the Incident Response Planning Guide (IRPG), which is like the Wildland Firefighter’s bible, on page V you will find the Army’s 11 Leadership Principals almost word for word. I guess they figured since they have been around since 1948 they wouldn’t change them!


                  Being on a fire for 14 days pulling 16 hour shifts and sleeping in your tent is like this bizarre but mostly great combination of Basic Training, prison camp, and a resort in the Rockies. In basic training you meet a bunch of guys you don’t know, eat MRE’s, tell a lot of bad jokes and fart whenever you want. However by the end of it you all survived and bonded and it really developed you for the better as a person. Alright, so obviously I’ve never been to a prison camp…however at times (mostly cold trailing) fire was a toilsome task. Sometimes it was just downright punishing due to the sun and the smoke or just the grade of the slope we were actually standing and working on. However in fire just like anything else there is down time and for all that hard work there is rest. The money is better than prison camp too. Lastly, if you are lucky enough to land on a large fire as we did for our last 9 days out you will have a catering service, supply tent and hot showers; all the comforts of home. Not to mention we were looking at the snowcapped peaks of Yellowstone National Park!


                  For those of you interested there are a lot of opportunities, especially if you are in good physical condition and are willing to travel. Additionally if you are a veteran there are multiple programs to get you certified, including the one that I am currently in; As veterans you remember that no matter what happens in life you can always recall Basic Training, right? Wildland Firefighting has that same effect. No matter what, you will always remember the sound of the crackle and the smells…you will always remember your first fire. To the members of the CAC-1 Crew out of West Virginia if you are reading this I hope you enjoyed the post and THANK YOU! Especially to Bravo Squad and the crew Bosses who shared both nuggets of wisdom and tidbits of ridiculousness, not necessarily in that order. So here’s to always having a “Pirate Tuesday” and may none of us ever have to grid three miles of desert sage again!


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VetsWork: “A Year of Reflection, Clarity and growth”


Brian Cummings


Maxwell Lake trail, beautiful country

This year so far has been amazing. I have had the opportunity to go on adventures I have always dreamed of doing. Thankfully, I am literally living the dream.

One of the most exciting highlights so far, I had the opportunity to reside in a Guard Station in the Lostine River Corridor on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest for a couple months. It was a great time and setting for reflection and also close to trails.


Guard station in Lostline River Cooridor

Over the duration of this internship I’ve had a great learning experience. The last two months or so I am actually applying the skills I have learned and it’s coming together like a jigsaw puzzle. It is exciting and I can’t wait to hopefully do this permanently.


Marking boundary for Cold Canal timber sale

Over the course of the internship I have learned and have become qualified in a number of skills; wildland firefighting (Red Carded) marking trees and setting/marking boundary for timber sales in accordance of a prescription. I have even got into taking technical Pre-Cruise plots for stands for inventory purposes. Hope to keep learning and soak it up like a sponge. It is amazing how much I have learned and applied since I started this journey.


Picture of Fire school at Mt. Emily

The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is so diverse and vast. It is mind boggling how one side of the Forest is Hells Canyon and the other corner you have an Alpine forest. I find myself extremely lucky for this opportunity.

In conclusion, I am looking forward to the rest of my adventure. Hope to gain more experience and skills to help pursue my career in Forestry. I really feel this internship has helped me with skills and finding connections that will help me achieve my goal of a career in Forest or Recreation Management. I am excited for the future and what it holds.

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VetsWork: “A Late Start, but Right on Track”

Jesse Part

The Journey of a Mt. Adam’s Institute VetsWork Trails, Heritage, Surveying, all-out Natural Resources Intern—by Jesse Part


Horseshoe Bluff. Overlooking the Big Muddy River and the Mississippi River floodplain.

I guess I should start by explaining the “late start” portion of the title of this blog. This was the second VetsWork intern position I applied for on the Shawnee National Forest. The first was a position on a trail crew. I was very hopeful given the fact I just graduated with a B.S. in Forestry from Southern Illinois University, and had volunteer experience in trail building. When I received the phone call that they chose someone else for the position because they wanted to train a person from the bottom-up, I was happy for whoever it was because of the experience they would gain, but I was also a bit disheartened. I began to ask myself, “What good is a degree, if it doesn’t even land you an internship?” With a wife and two young children at home, the need for landing some sort of employment weighs heavy on a parent. About two or three weeks later, I received a phone call from Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) about another VetsWork position that would be soon opening on the Shawnee. This position would be starting roughly a month later than the rest. Without hesitation, I told her to sign me up. This time around, I actually got to interview with my soon-to-be supervisors. The interview went well, although it was awkward interviewing via conference call, as I had never experienced that before. A week or so went by and my anticipation grew. My wife had booked us a trip to Las Vegas as a graduation gift, and it was during our stay there that I received the call from Katie. The news was good, I had been offered the position! This news actually stood tall among the other events of our Vegas vacation, and I felt like I was standing on top of the Grand Canyon again as I had been two days prior. Being in Vegas, I had to have a Bloody Mary to celebrate:


The first week of my internship consisted of a lot of paperwork, both for MAI and the Forest Service. Mary, my supervisor was very welcoming, as well as the other Forest Service staff. We soon took to the field where we would be showing some Heritage sites to personnel from Southern Illinois University Archaeology Department. As we made our way down an equestrian trail through a stand of eastern white pine, suddenly an open area littered with sandstone, limestone, and daffodils came into view. What we were standing on was the remnants of an old home foundation that was in the process of excavation by the Forest Service. One of the most noticeable features of this area was the intact well that still holds water.


Well at an old home site in the Shawnee National Forest

The next stop of the day was a prehistoric heritage site. We followed a trail along a bluff line through a mature oak/hickory forest to a large cave. Inside the cave, chert flakes could readily be found. The cave was massive and noticeably cooler than the outside. I could imagine a family of Native Americans inhabiting this cave centuries ago.


Cave where prehistoric artifacts and by-products have been found

Aside from my normal work activities in Heritage with Mary and Heather, I was able to work some with the trail crew, and then the survey crew. Work on the trail crew consisted primarily of clearing any debris blocking the trail. Most of the time we were in a designated wilderness area, so no power tools were allowed. Towards the end of a trail loop one day, we encountered something not even the tourist brochures would tell you about. During part of the year, this trail is open to horse-back riders and there is an open area in the middle of the forest right off the trail that appeared to be some kind of area where riders camp. Inhabiting this camp as a permanent resident is what appears to be a hillbilly scarecrow named Paco; however, some call him Pedro. Standing at about 4’8”, Paco or Pedro overlooks the camp, beer in one hand, walking stick in the other. Throughout the years, hikers and riders have adorned this guy with their own taste of fashion. Looking at this guy, I can’t help but think to myself how creepy it would be running into him on a night hike.

I received word from my supervisor that the plan for my permanent project had been laid out and I was able to begin. I was to report to the Supervisor’s Office in Harrisburg the following Monday morning to be briefed on the project. Shortly after my briefing, I was to head out to Garden of the Gods observation trail, a popular tourist site and featured on the Illinois quarter, to “get my feet wet” with the rating system. The purpose of this project was to utilize a rating system for the trails on the Shawnee that would gauge difficulty levels for equestrians, mountain bikers, and hikers. Characteristics like grade, tread stability, and technical features such as bridges and natural obstacles were to determine a trail’s overall difficulty, and this would someday be available to the public. What started at a local recreational hotspot, would soon blossom into a project that would take me to some of the most remote, yet beautiful places I never dreamed were right in my backyard.


Some Wildlife Encounters along the Way

6A random albino rat in the forest. I’m guessing someone dumped it.


A Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen).

He was sunbathing right in the middle of the trail. Luckily I had my eyes peeled, or I might have stepped on it and been bitten.

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VetsWork: “The Right Stuff”

Michael McGraw

Tbe Right Stuff. Yes, I have borrowed this title from Tom Wolfe’s recounting of NASA’s first astronauts in the U.S. space program. While I may not have the qualities and characteristics described by Wolfe as needed to be a NASA astronaut, I have found another government agency where I might have The Right Stuff required for success.

1In a flight suit and getting ready to go up in the air, but not to space

Working in the VetsWork Environment program with the Forest Service has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my passions and apply my abilities in a fruitful manner towards objectives I consider more than worthwhile. While working on projects to manage our public lands I’ve been able to research, analyze, and write in varying ways to help complete Forest Service projects. There have been opportunities for me to interact with the public by receiving their input and feedback so we could design projects in the best possible way.

3The view from atop Eagle Cap summit

But one of the biggest positives in this experience so far has been the people I’ve had a chance to work with and for in the Forest Service. They have allowed me to take on these responsibilities and roles without hesitation, which have contributed to me developing a knowledge base in the natural resource field. This has absolutely been one of the key aspects contributing to having such a positive and beneficial experience in this program. It is this trust and mentorship I’ve received that now positions me to use my skills and newly acquired knowledge to move forward with a career in the natural resource field.

2Being part of a team

I am most grateful for this present opportunity and try to take advantage of everything it provides. I am excited for what the future holds, and I will always remember where this path started. I have no doubt that this path I have chosen is the right way forward. It is full of The Right Stuff.

4Taking a break while running through the Eagle Cap


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VetsWork: Career Building – From Dream to Reality.


Hello all! Only a few months into my new internship with the Forest Service and all is going well. This internship is a time of exploration to learn what I like most and to get a better sense for career/college direction hereafter. I have had many opportunities already to connect with several departments with an array of activities and trainings. This includes work with administrative/clerical, archeology, engineering, fire, recreation, and timber.


Although I have had more exposure in some departments over others, I have begun to get an understanding of each one in itself. As time goes on, this will help me find my niche and reach my goal of deciding an area of study for the Forest Service or any other related agency. Soon, I will connect with other areas as well to further learning and keep this goal moving forward.

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To be honest, in the back of my mind I do have an idea already of what I may like to pursue as a career. However, I am allowing all experiences/trainings and internship completion before choosing. My career choice needs to be definite. There are many traveling opportunities working for the Department of Agriculture and travelling to new places is a favorite pastime and I do welcome this…depending on where it is of course. Not sure what is to come at or near the end of my internship but am very grateful for this time spent with the VetsWork program on the Mark Twain National Forest gaining new skills and trainings to aid in my future.

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VetsWork: Greetings from the Umatilla National Forest!


Chelsea-Header-Image3I have been at my site for about three weeks now and really feel as though I’m learning a lot in this short amount of time! I am working for the Umatilla National Forest and since I am fairly new to the area I knew I was going to have a steep learning curve as to where things are. After I expressed my concern of lack of knowledge, my supervisor was sure to put me on a task to become more familiar with the area while also making the website more “user friendly”. I am currently helping to update the wordage of the directions to cabins, camp sites, trails, sno-parks, etc… Through this I have been able to learn more about the forest’s history, districts, and have a general idea of where things are. I have been using a map of the forest, a list of every trail which equals 16 pages of 48 trails, cabins, etc… (approximately 750 sites!) listed alphabetically and by township and range, googlemaps for plugging in latitudes and longitudes, and the Umatilla National Forest website, all for my references. It has gotten tedious and redundant at times but when I needed a break I would often read more into the history of something that caught my interest and it was enough of a change for a bit to get me motivated to continue.


Since most of the first part of my internship will be Conservation Education Assistant (the latter will be Wilderness Assistance), I had prepared myself to be in an office setting until this summer. I have my own cubicle, complete with computer, and even a phone with my own number! It has been a surprise how much they’ve accommodated me so far just as an intern! The atmosphere is quite casual and relaxed. “Business Casual” is the attire which is jeans and a nicer top. In my opinion, anyplace that allows me to wear jeans and my converse shoes, I’m a happy camper. We can also listen to music throughout the day with headphones which is nice but due to my Coast Guard mindset I still feel like I’m breaking the rules by wearing headphones while working. However, music certainly makes the website updating much more enjoyable. Another thing that I’ve noticed is how connected everyone is. The Staff Officer has invited me to sit in important meetings and conference calls to be able to see different aspects of what the Forest Service does. In an environment that would often be easy to ignore the intern, many have included me in their projects to catch a glimpse into their work life.

After my first week I had been given the extra task to get volunteers from the office to help with upcoming career fairs, conferences, and other public affair opportunities. It’s been quite interesting trying to organize myself to contact and ask for help from the 200+ people whom I don’t know nor know me! Then the other side of it is the questions that I will receive after the mass email is sent and I won’t know how to answer it because I honestly have no idea. Thank goodness people are patient around here! I give them the standard “I don’t know but I can find out and let you know!” I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot. I appreciate the responsibility that I’ve been given so far, the lack of micro-tasking, and also the patience of answering my many, many questions that I have had so far and will continue to have! I haven’t experienced a work environment in a long time and am really starting to like it!


I have already participated in a career fair and in the coming weeks I will be helping out at many more. For my first career fair, I was able to work with Jimmye Turner from the Walla Walla District Office at the Walla Walla Community College (say that five times fast!). This was a career fair that focused on recruiting students for natural resource and agriculture related careers. Jimmye was wonderful to meet and work with. He is an ultra-talented and knowledgeable person. He has 30+ years of Forest Service experience under his belt and was able to answer so many questions. He was also creative! He pulled in people to our table by drawing any (and I mean any!) animal in 60 seconds or less! I was impressed as well were the people who would try to trick him! Needless to say, I learned what an axolotl is and he knew it and drew it in under 60 seconds! He was a pleasure to learn from and hope to be able to work with him again in the near future. Future projects that I am also looking forward to include a Fire and Fuels Career Camp. This will be a weekend long camp for high school age students in the area who are interested in a career in wildland firefighting. We also have a youth leadership conference in March that we will be participating in. This will gather 450+ middle and high school students from the area and we will have a session on what the forest service does and steps to take if they are interested in this type of work.

Overall, it has been a wonderful first month of my internship. I am excited to be here and look forward to learning more about my job and other career opportunities in the coming months!



The Missing Social Network


Team, Network, Social

What’s missing in the civilian workforce that our military veterans have come to depend upon?

What Vets Miss Most Is What Most Civilians Fear
Business Insider (NY), November 26, 2013
What rescued her was a stint with AmeriCorps, the federal community service organization, which gave her a job that led to full-time employment with a national nonprofit. AmeriCorps offered my friend three crucial things: a new mission, a new purpose, and a strong, supportive social network in which people were actually invested in one another’s well-being and success.

This article from the Business Insider suggests that a significant element missing from the civilian world for transitioning military veterans is the sense of social connection in all aspects of everyday life.  Where once there was a defining team ethic; where every action of an individual impacted the welfare of the entire team, now individualism and independence are the norm.  What we think of as teamwork or collaboration on specific projects seems anti-social next to the intense interconnectedness of a military squad.

This insightful perspective gives a focus for constructing an effective transition from the military culture to the civilian workforce culture. Individual service men and women may seek opportunities for replacing the strong social network or may be unaware of this potential missing link, but as a program designed to support this transition VetsWork intentionally incorporates this attribute within its very structure.  We are an AmeriCorps program with all of the values of team and cohesion inherent in the national service model.  We train as a group from the outset and throughout the year.  We structure Pod meetings to maintain the group dynamic.  We encourage regular connection through social media and technological strategies.  We know how valuable a sense of connectedness is.  If this article accurately represents the experience of our military veterans, then we know it is even more crucial for VetsWork.  Read this article and let us know what you think.  Look at our VetsWork information in this flyer and this brochure and see for yourself how VetsWork can support this career transition.

Visit our website at for more information.  See our job listings at


VetsWork Jobs: White Nose Station Volunteer Coordinator


Who wouldn’t want a job in this office?

If you are a US military veteran interested in a career in natural resources or public lands management, VetsWork has this new exciting job opportunity.  VetsWork is a career development program for transitioning veterans.  We place veterans in 11-month internships with public lands/natural resource agencies.  We support your transition from your military career to the civilian job market.   Here is just one example of the amazing opportunities that our partners have for you.  This position within the National Parks system starts in January, 2014.  Take a look!

The Oregon Caves National Monument seeks an enthusiastic intern. A veteran dedicated to sharing the fascinating earth science story of the cave and surrounding Siskiyou Mountains with the public.  The duties of the intern will be defined by the Chief of Interpretation.  S/he will collaborate with and report to the operations supervisor.  In addition, the intern will work as a multimedia specialist to develop educational posters and other media about White Nose Syndrome.  (click here for information about White Nose Syndrome)  The intern will also lead cave tours on a regular basis.  Additional duties include working with the Oregon Caves Chateau to create a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder recreational therapy program for military veterans and their families. 

Here are some of the activities the job includes:

Some of the locals

Some of the locals

1.    Recruitment of volunteers

2.    Train all staff and volunteers about White Nose Station operations

3.    Schedule the staff on a week by week and basis

4.    Coordinate Whitenose station operations on a daily basis.

5.    Lead Cave tours for up to 90 minutes up and down 500 steps.


The Oregon Caves National Monument lies within the Illinois River Valley in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southwestern Oregon.  They describe their corner of Oregon this way:

The average temperature in January is 33F and in July 90F. Rainfall amounts to about 61 inches a year. The sun shines 196 days and it rains 108 days on average. The Illinois Valley is frequently referred to as the “banana belt” of Oregon. It is fast becoming a favorite year-round vacation land. Here you can enjoy the spectacular beauty of the many rivers, streams, and public forest lands.  Enjoy hiking, backpacking, fishing and hunting. This picturesque valley lies halfway between Grants Pass and Crescent City, making it a pleasant hour drive to the famous Rogue River or the rugged Oregon Coast. The central location makes it an ideal place to live and a naturally peaceful place to visit.

The amazing Cave Junction countryside!

The amazing Cave Junction countryside!

When you combine this fascinating internship with a natural wonder like the Illinois River Valley, you have something special.  Let this be more than just a job or an internship.  Let us support you in making this the first step to your new career in the natural resources field.   The Mt. Adams Institute and VetsWork, together with AmeriCorps have developed this program to ensure you have the support, services and experience you need to make a fluid transition from the military to the civilian work force.   Log on to our website at and click on the Oregon Caves National Monument link to learn more about the requirements, benefits and application process.  We want to be a part of supporting your success.

VetsWork Jobs: Supporting the Career Transition


There is a lot of chatter about this transition from the military culture to a civilian culture.  There are a number of research studies on the matter (see this from Pew Research among many more).  Books have been written like  “The Military to Civilian Transition Guide” by Savino and Krannich.  There are also numerous resources for support on the internet (Real Warriors).  Without intentional planning, though, this transition remains largely unsupported.

There are many factors that will determine success for our returning heroes, but one of the largest indicators seems to be tied to a community of supports.  Religion was identified in the Pew Research study as a key indicator of success.  This highlights the need for a community that is available as a system of supports for a wide range of transitional barriers.  One of those barriers is adjusting to civilian workplace culture and expectations.  This can be a barrier from both sides of the fence.  Veterans may struggle to adjust to the civilian workplace environment.  Employers may not understand the military ethic and highly trained strategies.  In either case, it is a matter of understanding and communication that makes the difference.

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Additionally, that community of supports is essential in supporting specific needs as they arise.  Being able to identify when help is needed is the first step.  Helping to locate resources is essential.  Whether it is post-traumatic stress, medical benefits, childcare, or military benefits a strong support system is essential to successful transition.  We know that our returning veterans have developed a strong reliance on a team.  That’s been their life in the military.  The civilian environment is very different.  It becomes very isolating.


At the Mt. Adams Institute, we have designed VetsWork to be that system of supports.  We intentionally structure training for veterans and supervisors to create common understanding of this transition.  We build in team structures that include other veterans to connect with on a regular basis.  We connect with state and federal support agencies to ensure veterans are getting the services and benefits they need.  We work with specialists in the field of military to civilian transitions to better understand the issues and make sure we’re prepared to be there for our members.  VetsWork is that community of supports that the research says is so important.  Our mission is to make the transition a seamless and effective process.  We want to be more than just a job opportunity.  We want to be a powerful resource in transitioning to a new and exciting career after the military.

Log on to our website at to see how VetsWork has been designed to support veterans and natural resource agencies looking to hire them.  Also, visit the jobs page at to see what internships are available.  Get started on your new career with VetsWork. We’re here for you.


VetsWork Jobs: Natural Resource Intern


Educating today’s youth about our natural resources

The Mt. Adams Institute is proud to continue our strong relationship with the US Forest service with our latest VetsWork job posting.  The Natural Resource Intern with the Umatilla National Forest is a unique career development opportunity for military veterans seeking to shape their future career in public lands and natural resource management.

This position is located on the Umatilla National Forest in Pendleton, Oregon and the North Fork John Day Ranger District in Ukiah, Oregon. The intern will assist in three major program areas across the forest. The first is with the Conservation Education & Volunteer Program.  You will assist in management of the Education & Volunteer program, coordinate with partners, and support grant writing and program development. The second focus will be with the Recreation division.  Here you’ll be building sign boards, creating campsites, installing fire rings, picnic tables and fee tubes.  Skills you’ll need and use daily include use of hand tools & power tools (e.g.,  sander, drill, table saw, and chainsaw). You will work with the OHV trail crews on maintenance & bridge building, removing logs from the trail (chainsaw or crosscut saw work), and drainage improvement (using a shovel and hoe/Pulaski to dig with).  The final component of this position will be with Fisheries & Wildlife assisting with surveys of fish and other wildlife species and assistance with enforcement of hunting and other game regulations.


 And what will you do with your down time after work…? Read what the city of Ukiah has to say about their astounding location and recreational opportunities:

Come visit a tiny town that time seems to have been forgotten, 50 miles from anywhere and surrounded by vast stretches of forest and rangeland in Eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains.

Recreation in Ukiah means the great outdoors, with hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, picnicking, four-wheeling, rafting, bicycling, motorcycling, scenic drives, snowmobiling and horseback riding. Explore the canyons, play in the rivers and lakes, keep an eye out for elk and deer and maybe even spot a bear or a cougar.

Sound like a job opportunity too good to pass up?  Log on to our website at and click on the Natural Resource Intern link to learn more about the requirements, benefits and application process.   Let the Mt. Adams Institute be a part of your job search.  Let us support the transition from your military service to your new career.  That’s what VetsWork is about; helping our returning service men and women find jobs that matter to them and to this country.