VetsWork: Full Circle – Oregon to the Sky and Back

Tyson Schoenmoser

Hi! My name is Tyson Schoenmoser and I am currently working as a VetsWork AmeriCorps natural resources intern for the Forest Service on the Deschutes National Forest here in beautiful Bend, Oregon. I come from the small town of La Grande, Oregon where I grew up loving the outdoors and its endless activities. Fly fishing, white water rafting, snowboarding and hiking are at the top of my fun list.

After graduating high school I started my first season as a wildland firefighter. I’ll never forget my first fire call and how excited I was to get out in the woods and on the job. Although this would prove to be one of the most intense, dangerous and physically demanding jobs I had ever done, my excitement and passion for the job never wavered. I continued on as a wildland firefighter for the next 3 years filling my summers while attending the Oregon Institute of Technology. Unfortunately the inherent danger of the job ended my last season in heartbreak. While in route to the Hayman fire, the largest in Colorado history, one of the vehicles in our convoy was involved in a fatal accident that claimed the lives of 5 of our crew members including my girlfriend, Retha Shirley. This was a huge turning point in my life and is what lead me to joining the Air Force.

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Joining the military proved to be one of the best decisions I ever made. It was where I would meet my future wife and many lifelong friends. The training and experience I acquired over 8 years on active duty has been irreplaceable and helped me to become the person I am today. During my time in service I was a C-130 Hercules crew chief and had the great opportunity to be stationed overseas at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

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As with most jobs in the military my work required me to be away for extended periods, sometimes unsure of when I might come back home to see my family. Over the years this began to take its toll and the difficult decision to separate had to be made. After my separation from the Air Force and transition back into civilian life I was on the search for another career opportunity that would not only fulfill my passions but also serve an important purpose. The Forest Service was an option I had pursued to no avail as job openings seemed to be few and with qualification standards difficult to obtain. It wasn’t until I stumbled across Mt. Adams Institute and their VetsWork AmeriCorps program that I realized this could become a reality. In many ways I feel that I’ve come full circle and it feels great to get back out in the forest doing a job I’m passionate about.

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The timing of program couldn’t have been better. My wife Eileen and our new baby girl Scarlett had just relocated back to Oregon to put down roots and raise our family when the opportunity presented itself.

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I started my natural resources internship the beginning of February and have truly loved the experience thus far. I’ve been working at the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District within the Timber and Silviculture departments. In the last couple months I have received a ton of on the job training working with pre-sale crews preparing timber units for harvest. I have also had many other opportunities going out with the timber sale administrator, reforestation and restoration projects, and planting cottonwood trees at the Clarno project… and I’m not even half way through the internship yet! I’m really looking forward to the future of this internship and feel I will come away with the training and experience needed to obtain a permanent Forest Service position.

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