I’ll be honest; I didn’t have many expectations before arriving to start this program. A lot of that had to do with the fact I worked full time up until two and a half days before leaving Georgia to meet up with the crew in Trout Lake, Washington. When I applied and was told I had an opportunity to participate my expectations were: a group of veterans would come together to participate in land stewarding until fire season started then would fight fires. Mix in some physical training and classes and that is pretty much what I thought I was in store for. My current impression isn’t too far from my expectations. There is a solid group of prior service individuals who wake up early, they PT hard, they listen to instructions, professionalism seems important, and sarcasm seems a mainstay at the moment.
Thinking about impressions leads me to the reason I came. I was working a 9 to 5 in a wood shop, my lungs felt like they were full of sawdust, and I did not like the way I saw my future. I needed a change, so I got on the Internet, found this program and thought, “sounds good, guess I’ll do that.” So I did. I bought everything I needed, got in shape, got shin splints, and packed all my stuff in my car. I drove from Georgia to Washington in 50 something hours and haven’t regretted it yet.
So far I have taken a first aid and CPR class, defensive driving class, and got chainsaw certified as an “A” sawyer. Power points suck but chainsaws do not, but even the most maligned aspects of classes are important and will be needed later down the road. The crew from my eyes and what I keep hearing is a gathering of misfits from across the nation. I enjoy most of them and can tolerate all. I have made some great friends in only a month into this program; it’s interesting how a group of veterans can become tight knit and watch each other’s backs in such a short time.
I hope the rest of the term consists of everyone getting in great shape and really securing bonds that will be needed as we move on to the fire season and beyond. Personally, I want to become a cog in the machine that helps us, as a crew, run smoothly and efficiently. I hope we can help the Umatilla National Forest in its land stewarding and thinning operations and I hope the Umatilla Veteran Crew can strengthen its reputation and be a staple in the Ukiah community. I want a big mustache and to lose my love handles, that would be cool too.