Veterans Day Celebration: Patrick Ford
Our Outreach Coordinator had the pleasure of sitting down with a group of current and former VetsWork Interns to discuss their service, current roles, and connections to the outdoors. Read below about Patrick Ford, Volunteer Coordinator for the Sumter National Forest.
Demographics: branch, current title, location
Air Force Veteran
Andrew Pickens Ranger District on the Sumter National Forest (Mountain Rest, SC)
Tell me about your current position.
I am responsible for recruiting volunteers to the Sumter National Forest to help take care of the public lands and foster a stronger relationship between the community and the United States Forest Service. The overall purpose is connecting the public to the natural lands that surrounds them in hopes that they adopt a proactive mindset when it comes to taking care of the environment properly.
What is your favorite part about your position?
The best part of my job is interacting with each volunteer and developing a stronger relationship with them. I also enjoy seeing how each individual glows enthusiastically while taking care of a recreation site, trail, or even helping during a study of the surrounding wildlife.
What is one thing you have learned so far? About yourself, this line of work, the organization, etc.?
I’ve learned that feeling responsible for public lands is a very deliberate act and a mind set that must be adopted on an emotional level. While working in my career field I’ve learned that I am a very self-driven individual although I absolutely love working in a team setting.
Tell me about your connection to the outdoors. What draws you to the natural world?
I’ve been connected to the outdoors ever since I was a small child. I remember all my days and nights exploring the woods with my dog and enjoying the scenery; how freeing it felt to be in the natural world.
How do you feel about working/living in the outdoors?
I wouldn’t say I despise working in an office setting but as a thirty-year-old it has never been my niche. With that being said, I adore working/living in the great outdoors and will continue to do so (God willing).
Why do you think is it important to protect public lands and natural resources?
I think it’s important because we as a people have seen how badly land degradation and climate changes have affected us and all the creatures that we share it with. That we depend on to survive.
Service is a major focus of AmeriCorps. What does service mean to you?
As a prior Sergeant for the U.S. Air Force, it has been instilled in me that the term is Latin for “One Who Serves”. It means taking care of anyone under your command but also nurturing those that are in need whenever possible.
What made you decide to continue serving our country after your military service?
To be honest, I acknowledge that the role I’m in makes a positive difference to the world around me, but I chose to continue serving because it’s who I am as a person and I thoroughly enjoy the work I am doing. When you love what you do … it is no longer work.
As a veteran, what was the transition like from active-duty service to corps membership? Do you think other veterans could benefit from similar opportunities?
My transition out of the military was very overwhelming initially. I struggled to find a place of employment that I enjoyed for two year up until now.
How has VetsWork affected your career goals?
Working with VetsWork has emboldened me to continue to seek employment outdoors. Taking care of natural lands and the resources it produces.
Do you have any funny stories to share?
I took part in a kayak clinic sometime over the summer; this is a class that teaches you how to surf rapids and control a kayak to your best abilities. It also teaches you how to turn your kayak right side up if you ever capsize while paddling – this is called rolling. Needless to say I learned when I capsized that if you’re not proficient at the technique it is much better to eject out of the kayak and swim to shore. I should say I learned the hard way after inhaling a “breath” of the Chattooga River once or twice. It was humbling and a lot less fun at the time but looking back I can laugh and it’s a story I’ll always keep with me.