“And we’re off!”
Hey there, I am Brandon Mersich an AmeriCorps/Vetswork intern currently relocated from Southern California to Eastern Oregon on the Malheur National Forest. Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork program has provided me with a great position as a recreational assistant here at the Prairie City Ranger District. My blog here will attempt to inform you on the VetsWork program, work in the Forest Service, and my personal experience relocating to Oregon.
The Vetswork program at Mt. Adams Institute helps veterans connect with positions in the public lands management sector. The program is sponsored/funded by AmeriCorps through the Corporation for National and Community Service. My first week with the program was great. During the first week of orientation the staff was very informative and helps you with anything you need. They provide some casual icebreakers and you participate in some fun activities to relieve the tension. Before you leave they give you folders of information and an online link to all the pages in it, incase something is lost. After arriving on the forest they call you and check up to make sure everything is going as planned. I have even sent text messages asking questions and got a response back in minutes. They really do set you up for success and help reduce that dreaded feeling of moving to a new state and starting a new career on the forest.
On the forest, my recreation supervisor gave me a tour of the area, introduced me to the head shed, went over tasks we have for the year ahead and even asked me what I wanted to get out of the program. Don’t be afraid to ask to start scheduling as many certifications and trainings as possible. Experience and training is what you’re here for. My first week was full of meetings, readings, and familiarizing with all the do’s and don’ts of being a federal employee again. One of my first tasks was to assess and fix up a recreational cabin known as the Sunshine Guard Station, for the campers coming the following weekend. I also got to participate in the National Visitors Use Monitoring training with recreational supervisors from the Tri-Forest Area. This helps to “produce estimates of the volume of recreation visitation to National Forests and Grasslands. Second, to produce descriptive information about that visitation, including activity participation, demographics, visit duration, measures of satisfaction, and trip spending connected to the visit.” (NVUM –https://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum/ )
My personal experience of moving to another state and a new internship has always filled me with anxiety. I had no idea what my apartment was going to look like and how to acquire furniture in such a small town. I can’t just strap a couch to the top of my Toyota Corolla and roll around town with that. Although I like the challenges. It took the internet a good 16 days to get installed, so make sure you are ready for some things to run a bit slower than the city life. With that said, I met up with some of the locals who were super helpful in any questions I had, and helped me get all settled in. Thats it, time to get back to work.