My name is Colin Crofts, and I am a VetsWork intern assigned to the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Chatsworth, GA. I applied and was accepted for an internship as a forestry technician, which was one of several jobs to choose from in the VetsWork AmeriCorps program with the Mt. Adams Insitute. Aside from being a Marine I have always wanted to work for the United States Forest Service (USFS). I came across this opportunity while applying for USFS jobs after retiring from the Marines and it seemed like an excellent way to get my foot in the door and gain much of the experience required for the jobs I had been applying for without success.
I started working here March 13, 2017 and so far I have worked with both the recreation and timber crews. I have been extremely happy working in the outdoors on a daily basis and knowing I am performing a job that means something to me and everyone else who enjoys recreation on our public lands. In March I was assigned to the recreation crew, where I helped to maintain campgrounds, shooting ranges, Forest Service roads and hiking trails. The main focus here has been to prepare for the opening of campgrounds for the season. My work during this time included testing and turning on drinking water; removing leaves and debris from roads, camp sites and picnic areas; building a board walk for a hiking trail; removing hazard trees and blow downs to ensure safety and accessibility of Forest Service roads, trails and facilities; as well as cleaning restrooms and removing trash.
During prescribed burns all the crews join together in this effort. I was able to assist the incident commander with smoke observation and learn what takes place during prescribed burns.
Additionally I assisted in recording data from the air quality station and replacing the cartridges from the machines that monitor and collect air quality data.
In April I was assigned to the timber crew. So far I have assisted with the treatment of eastern hemlock which is plagued with the non-native invasive hemlock woolly adelgid.
I also assisted in marking leaved trees “do not cut” to create open forest for a habitat enhancement plot and measured and marked trees for timber sale thinning.
In order to perform some of these tasks I have had to receive special training and certificates. Thus far I have received training and been certified to operate a chainsaw and a ditch witch, and I received a certificate through an online webinar for treatment of the hemlock wooly adelgid. One of the major benefits I thoroughly enjoy about this program is the training and certificates that the USFS allows VetsWork AmeriCorps interns to obtain. I see these training opportunities as assets that will stand out on a VetsWork intern’s resume when applying for USFS, NPS, BLM or similar jobs within the Department of Agriculture or Department of Interior. So far I am having a blast and really enjoying the work I have been performing.