Veterans Day Celebration: Elamon White
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 Elamon White, VetsWork Alum and current Southern Tier Fleet Management Assistant for the Hoosier, Shawnee, Midewin, and Mark Twain National Forests.
Demographics: branch, current title, location
US Navy, resigned as a LT from the Navy Reserves as of July 2021
Was stationed at Norfolk Naval base, Virginia 2013-2016
Tell me about your current position.
Currently the Southern Tier Zone Fleet Management Assistant in Region 9 of the Forest Service. I help manage and maintain all the vehicles and equip costing over $5,000 for Hoosier/Shawnee/Midewin/Mark Twain National Forests. My duty station is out of the Hoosier National Forest Supervisors office.
What is your favorite part about your position?
Favorite part is I work for the Forest Service employees and I receive immediate feedback frequently on how well I am doing my job. I have never been in a position previously where I received such positive reinforcement consistently that what I am doing is a good job from those I am serving. It truly feels amazing to know what your doing is appreciated and that the folks I work for know I have their best interest at heart. On top of that, I still get to participate in elements in other departments such as public affairs, trail maintenance, and fire details.
What is one thing you have learned so far? About yourself, this line of work, the organization, etc.?
This is simple question, but I could have so many answers. To sum up, what I have learned is that I am resilient and that I can truly accomplish anything I put my mind to and enjoy doing it at the same time. The work I do can be fulfilling, meaningful, and filled with gratitude. I have found where I belong working for the USDA Forest Service.
Tell me about your connection to the outdoors. What draws you to the natural world?
There is something so peaceful and awe inspiring about nature and the outdoors. The primitive, unapologetic way about the natural world gives you a moment of pause at times. That, the world is massive, and you are one human on the planet while nature thrives around you. That is what draws me to the outdoors.
How do you feel about working/living in the outdoors?
Oh, I love it. I cannot get enough of it. Not only working outdoors, but also influencing others to enjoy them as well and to help them make the connection I have brings me so much joy.
Why do you think is it important to protect public lands and natural resources?
We need them. The Earth would be choked off without them. It is not just for humans; for the world as we know it to keep on thriving, we need public lands/natural resources. We would be nothing without them. Our public lands are vital for all life.
Service is a major focus of AmeriCorps. What does service mean to you?
This is a tough question. At this point in time in my life I have served the Military, AmeriCorps, and now the USDA Forest Service. All three missions of service have a baseline of serving our country. For me that mission has hit differently throughout my service to our country. But I have felt most proud and accomplished when serving our country to protect our public lands. The feeling of putting hands on the ground others use runs deeper in my soul than sitting on a warship in the middle of the Persian Gulf. To serve and feel connected to those I directly impact, who use our public lands, truly makes me feel accomplished and that I am doing some good in this world.
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?
When I found the VetsWork program, I wasn’t searching specifically for another way to serve my country. Truthfully as I was preparing to transition out of the Navy, I had to ask myself the question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” After looking into AmeriCorps and the VetsWork program, the job description was too good to be true. It was an opportunity to continue to be a part of something greater than myself, but also to follow the path my heart wanted me to take. A way to serve where I felt accomplished, prideful in my work, and the feeling I am truly doing some good for this world.
The VetsWork program was an unbelievable way for me figure out my next moves in life after my military service and help me transition to the civilian world with a team of support behind me. Everyone at MAI and my supervisor and colleagues with the Forest Service where there every step of the way to help me become as successful as possible.
How has VetsWork affected your career goals?
Beyond measure, truly. After only 2.5 years removed from the program, I am already at my dream location and have a hearty career path laid out for me. I would not be where I am today without the VetsWork program, MAI staff, and Forest Service colleagues who believed in me and supported me to where I am today.
Do you have any funny stories to share?
My first internship I met an awesome trail crew from the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). I backpacked out with everything I needed for the weekend to work on a section of trail in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness in SC. This is where I learned about the 5-star rating system for pooping in the woods. My first question was, “that’s a thing?”
One of the crewmembers goes on to explain to me, “yes! It is absolutely a thing. Pooping in backcountry is a whole memorable experience that typically you will never forget.”
Pooping in the woods as a 1-5 star rating system. The criteria can vary from person to person, but the premise is the same. 1 star is a crappy poop, and 5 stars is a rare, phenomenal poop.
Backcountry Poop Rating Scale 1-5 stars:
Criteria: location, consistency, surroundings/weather, ease of digging a cathole, and nature moment
1 star – not a great poop, no view, may be raining, hard to find a place to dig a cathole, ground was hard to dig
2 stars – decent poop, no view, reasonable in finding place to dig, decent ground
3 stars – great poop, easy to find a place to dig, ground was soft, hearing a stream or a view or a sunrise/sunset
4 stars – Repeat 3 stars plus… seeing wildlife, you may make eye contact
5 stars – Repeat 3 stars plus… the stars a line, is the best poop you have ever had in the woods, great view, you see wildlife and make eye contact, and that wildlife is pooping with you