Before I arrived to participate with the Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork GreenCorps program I expected to be challenged physically and to learn about wildland firefighting. Other than that I did not know what else to expect. Within the first three weeks we have done more than my initial expectation. Every morning (weather permitting) we start our day with some sort of workout. We will go for a run, a hike with all our gear, or conditioning training. So far our workdays have consisted of some sort of classroom training followed by hands-on training. We spent two days in the classroom learning so much about how to operate a chainsaw properly and safely, how to cut down trees, and how to clean and maintain a chainsaw. Before I started this program I knew we would learn how to use a chainsaw and cut down trees, but I had never thought about what it all really consisted of. After the classroom training, we took the book knowledge to the field and started practicing with the saw. And it was not as easy as I initially thought it would be. However, after a week of instruction and observation on how to properly fell a tree I took my certification practical and passed. Since being at Umatilla National Forest we have also completed the Oregon Department of Transportation flagger training, completed the pack test, and the defensive drivers’ course.
I decided to take this opportunity in Oregon because I wanted a job that allowed me to spend time in the outdoors and wildland firefighting seemed like the job for me. However, I did not know much about wildland firefighting, but what I had found out it looked like a job I would enjoy. I saw this program as an opportunity to really see what wildland firefighting and the Forest Service is about. I also saw this program as a chance to get a better idea to decide if this is the job I want to do. And even though it has only been three weeks into the program I feel like this is a job I want to continue with.
I hope to continue to learn from the Umatilla Veteran Crew instructors and participants. So far our crew has been working together as a team and looking out for each other. Even though we are living in a single bunkhouse 20 miles from the closest town we all have been getting along and becoming friends. I hope the rest of the term consists of all of us continuing to perfect the skills we have learned thus far and be prepared as we can be to work this upcoming fire season.