Want to be a Wildland Firefighter? Montana is Training Veterans for Free

Montana's Veterans Green Corps is training Veterans to become Wildland Firefighters


Veterans Green Corps (VGC) is a field-based opportunity for post 9/11 era Armed Forces Veterans and Service Members modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps. The VGC program is an experience that provides on the job training focusing in Wildland Firefighting and chainsaw technical skills. The Veterans Green Corps is based in the Central Divide (Helena, Montana) region. Trainings are largely field based and are provided through a joint partnership with the Forest Service. Project work typically includes fuels reduction and thinning projects however it may also include other types of conservation service. Participants in the past have been called upon to support wildland fire suppression efforts in Montana.

A Veteran who is in the program shared this about the Veterans Green Corps on Reddit:

  • The training program is 11 weeks long.

  • Gives you all the qualifications you need to be a wildland firefighter including S-212 Chainsaw certs, S-130/190 (Red Card/Incident Card required by all wildland firefighters).

  • Amazing networking opportunities with United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other federal organizations that hire directly out of the program in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. If you want a job with a federal service after this term you are basically guaranteed a job.

  • You get paid to go camping in some of the most beautiful spots in the country.

  • All food is provided while you’re out and we eat GOOD. It’s not crappy backpacking food. We have fish curry, chicken and rice, bacon, eggs, you name it. All fresh, all cooked by ourselves, amazing food.

  • The camaraderie is second to none. It seriously feels just like the Army because you’re working 8 days at a time with your crew. You guys camp together, hang out by the fire at night. It’s seriously so much fun and I haven’t felt this camaraderie since leaving the Army.

  • You’re paid a living stipend and also get an education award of $1,250 once you finish your 11 weeks. I plan to use mine to get my EMT cert. You can also use it for really random things like training to be a white water rafting guide, other types of outdoor leadership courses, it’s very non-restrictive.

Learn more and apply for this program at: https://mtcorps.org/join/opportunities-for-veterans/veterans-green-corps/ 


Tim Hudak

  joined the VA in December 2013 and is on the Veterans Experience Office team. Tim, a Chicago-land native enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school. As an intelligence analyst he deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 in 2006 and 2008. After the Marine Corps, Tim used the GI Bill to earn a degree in Intelligence Studies from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and co-founded the university’s first student Veteran organization. Tim is active in many Veteran organizations.


  1. Mark a esparza sr    

    Is this or any program available still and is there anvage restriction i am in my 50 but still in good shape would like more info if possible about program would like to sign up desert storm vet

  2. Dave Dutra    

    In 1974-1978, 51M20, I was an ARMY Firefighter. First stationed at Ft. Devons, Mass, then stateside swaped to HMLR Hunter Ligget Military Reservation, CA, TDY summer 1976 at Ft Irwin, CA, then transferred to Ft. Richardson, AK. I had a great time at all places but most liked the wildland fire fights at HLMR. If your on the fence about doing this , JUMP IN. It’s tough, it’s exhilarating, It’s rewarding. DO IT.

  3. Bob    

    In Arizona… “Applicants must fall between the ages of 21-37.” Are there any programs without the age restrictions? TIA. ~ SFC Bob Huey, U.S. Army (Ret.)

  4. Mr Zamora    

    What if I already did this in the Army in 2003 @ Fish Creek with 1CD 2/82 FA Ft. Hood, Tx can I still get the Certifications? Not just have it, more of wondering. I do tree trimming and would think it would settle minds of costumers.

  5. Lisa Slupianek    

    Hey folks,

    It is worth mentioning that there are several of these programs all over the nation that operate quite similarly. There are three programs that are a part of Conservation Legacy that have Veteran Fire Corps programs available at different times and for different durations as well based out of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Tennessee. Here are the links to those programs:
    Colorado: https://sccorps.org/veterans-fire-corps
    Arizona: https://azcorps.org/veterans-fire-corps
    Tennessee: https://southeastconservationcorps.org/veterans-fire-corps
    New Mexico: https://corpsnm.org/veterans-fire-corps

    Many of your questions can be answered at those sites, and contact information is available for the individuals that recruit and support these crews directly. Arizona and Southwest are currently running fall programs and are looking for applicants.

  6. Anthony V Johnson    



  7. Chad    


    Apparently this training was “recently” discontinue due to “lack of recruits”. Here is a letter from Adam Hein in return to my own inquiry about this training as advertised. I’ve also contacted the office where the author of the article works (Veteran Insights and Communications at Veterans Experience Office) in an effort to both understand the disconnect and correct the information being put out.
    Here is return email, Verbatim, from Adam Hein, Regional Director-Helena, Montana Conservation Corps.


    Thank you for recently expressing interest in the Veteran Green Corps program at Montana Conservation Corps! The MCC Veterans Green Corps is an intensive 11-week training program that certifies you for jobs in wildland firefighting and other natural resource careers. The program is camping-based with extended periods in remote settings. MCC is not a therapeutic program and provides no physical or mental health rehabilitation resources. Participants are enrolled as AmeriCorps national service participants and earn only a modest $650 biweekly stipend and an education award upon completion of the program.

    MCC has been running Veterans Programs for almost 10 years with a high degree of success for our participants. All along, we have struggled to connect with Veterans and recently we decided that we would not be running the program in 2020 due to lack of recruits.

    However, because of a wave of interest sparked by current members and alumni, we have decided to reassess our ability to pull together enough crews in 2020 to maintain this excellent experience in Montana.

    We need your help! Please follow the link below and complete the short survey. This valuable information will help us assess if this program is a good fit for the veteran community and perhaps for you in 2020.

    MCC Veterans Green Corps Survey

    Thank you,


    Adam Hein
    Regional Director- Helena
    Montana Conservation Corps

  8. Charles E. Mullins    

    I’m interested in the Woodland Fire Fighting training, can you please send me a point of contact? Thank you.

    Charles Mullins – Iraq War Veteran

  9. Ronald E Palachuk jr    

    Does anyone know if there is an opportunity like this in Washington state?

  10. Adam Obest    

    Good stuff Tim. Great info and sounds really exciting. Thanks for communicating to our wonderful brotherhood of Vets. Best,

  11. Robert Slack    

    This is where you can apply for this position.
    Thank you for everyone’s interest in the VGC


  12. Eduardo    

    “Working 8 days at a time” – and then I knew someone from the Army typed this up.

  13. John Sheppard    

    I serv in Vietnam 67-68′ I would love to of been able to become one after my tour was done…. but they didn’t have anything close to what this is to help the Vet’s coming back. I have a Son who has train for Fire Fighting over in Hawaii already, who would love to take my place if you would let him…

  14. Diane Dorais    

    Can family members (son) apply if all other qualifications are met?

  15. Diane Dorais    

    Can family members apply if all other qualifications are met?

    1. Jack Jones    

      There are other positions within MCC that your son could do, trails work, saw work, just not on a vet crew. You can see them at mtcorps.org

  16. George Webb    

    My summer after college freshman year, I signed up with the Forest Service as a fire fighter in Mt. Hood National Forest. Living quarters were reinforced canvas tents on the shore of a small reservoir. Breakfast and dinner were cooked in camp by a very adept cook and box lunches were provided when we were away from camp. The two crews were well trained in firefighting and when not doing so were involved in Timber Stand Improvement and brush disposal (cleaning up after commercial loggers as a fire prevention measure). That summer almost passed without any fires except there was a dry electric storm that started fires all throughout the district. That kept us busy almost. 24/7 for a week.
    I never was on a large fire that topped out as the ones that have been prevalent lately, but worked on several in Virginia as a team member and a crew bliss.
    I did have friends and classmates who attended fire jump school in Montana. For those veterans who enjoyed being part of a team with a definite objective, firefighting on federal land has similar tasks and rewards. I have done both in my lifetime.

  17. Matt v    

    So today right now! I work for the Forest Service. Im former active duty enlisted and now a reserve officer. I can tell you this is a scam. Do not use your GI Bill for wildland firefighting training. The USFS will pay you and train you to fight fires.

    1. Jack Jones    

      It is definitely not a scam. MCC is a non profit and the programs are Americorps programs. Using your GI bill is 100% optional and just allows you to earn extra income during your summer. The programs costs NOTHING. You are paid a living stipend throughout, free food on hitch, equipment provided, all your certifications and great networking with USFS and BLM project partners.

  18. Timothy C Pittman    

    I would like to know more about this program. Ita been very hard for me since i been out the army. Employment issues. Not being able to obtain certs for certain jobs. I just wish i had someone who cared enough to actually help veterans who are able to work. Homeless non drug using and non alchoholic veteran is like a unicorn. Just bad luck all around. I just need something to work for me and help me be successful in life and really make a difference.

  19. Anthony Ibarra    

    Hello Dan,

    I would be interested in more information if you would be so kind as to provide. Such information as what are the available locations and requirements to join the program.

    Thank you!

  20. TONY L PATTON    

    can other vets before 911 take part in this program?

  21. Robert Radford    

    Interested in this please send info

  22. Nick Ceraldi    

    I’m interested in this program but it’s post 9/11 only. I got out in 97. Everything in recent years is POST 9/11 its frustrating as hell! I decided against the GI Bill which I regretted and had only one chance at in boot camp so that SUCKS and I think is BS! Now after 4 years active duty, combat vet., survived 9/11 as a construction worker in Manhattan, everything is POST 9/11. Prior to 9/11 it’s I guess to bad, your to old I suppose is the attitude!!!

  23. Jim    

    Wish they had something like this when I got back from the Nam ,I would have really enjoyed this opportunity

  24. J D    

    What Is the starting pay when you get hired with federal service on average?

  25. Dillon Patrick Catlett    

    I’m in. Where do I sighn up

  26. Stephen McGahey    

    I’m really interested, what is the contact information for this program?

  27. Robert Slack    

    I am a current VGC CrewLeader

    Term of service is a 450 hour Americorps term

    Pay is a basic living stipend for the duration of service

    Crew leader: February 4 – August 2
    Crew member: May 20 – August 2

    Certs earned
    130/190 red card

  28. Charlie Raymond Smith    

    What are the eligibility requirements and how do we get started? Sounds pretty frickin awesome to me! Can you please send me more info?

  29. Chris Colbert    

    You’re paid a living stipend. What’s the pay and how often will it be received.

  30. Benjamin Davis    

    This really sounds like a badass opportunity, I would be interested in any follow up information that is available.

  31. Lamar Henderson    

    I was looking at this Wildland Firefighter? Montana is Training Veterans for Free and I want to know if this applies to dependents of retirees. I am an Air Force retiree and I have a 19 year old son who wants to get into this field and I need to know if he can attend instead of me.


    Lamar Henderson
    Retired (MSgt)

  32. Isaiah Jackson    

    I would like to learn more about the program and what I would need to do to attend. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

  33. Isaiah Jackson    

    I am interested in this program and was wondering if I could get more information please. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

  34. Victor DiCarlo    

    Will this certify you to be a firefighter once completed?

    How much is monthly stipend?



  35. Victor DiCarlo    

    This sounds interesting- will this certify you to become a firefighter once finished? Also how much is the monthly stipend?

  36. Joe Gonzalez    

    Anything in Oregon that offers the same program. I am a father of 5 , going to school to finish my bachelors and fighting fires has been a job I’ve been wanting to give back to and try

  37. Daniel Allen Edwards    

    I am 35 years old and I retired from the military in 2012. I would love to have this opportunity. How do I sign up to guarantee a slot?

  38. Heath Buckner    

    (redacted) externally interested!

  39. Daniel Fisher    

    11 weeks is quite a long time. Hope it will be worth it.

    1. Jason Getty    

      Daniel, come to Lakeview, Oregon and go to the Carmen Thomas memorial fire school. What Montana is offering in 11 weeks, Oregon will do in five days four nights. All the qualifications mentioned in the article you will receive. Montana is a joke.

  40. Richard Anthony    

    Great opportunity for the interested ones. What are the requirements to join please?

  41. Elias Hernandez    

    Interested in this program. Please send more info. Thank you.

    1. Dan Cottrell    

      I run a similar program for the US forest service. Shoot me an email and I will send you some information.

      1. Mike Blade    

        Hi Dan,
        Saw your post on this subject matter would be interested in any information you can provide

      2. Justin L Hubbard    

        Anything in or around colorado?

      3. Justin Hubbard    

        Anything in or around colorado?

      4. Maurice Cromartie    

        Can I receive the information about your program. My email address is (redacted)

      5. Mark Leonard    

        Dan may I speak with you about your program?

      6. Kevin Eagen    

        I am interested in more information about this and the US Forest Service. Can someone send me more info on how to join?

      7. Clint Sanchezn-Navarrete    

        Hey Dan, would that training be usable in Southern California?
        Please email me any info on that. Also, i’m still pretty fit but i’m 42, 43 in sept.
        Was Airborne & AirAssault in the Army.
        Let me know please. thanks!

        Warm Regards,


      8. Michael Watson    

        Hi Dan, I’m interested in hearing a little more about your program I e. Pay, how long does your program last, what qualifications are needed, and are you located in or near Washington State?

      9. LEVITICUS    

        Is that the Wildland Firefighter Apprentice Program?

      10. shane baker    

        I’d like to hear about the program you are involved in.

      11. Chad Ausbrooks    

        Dan do you mind sending me information for the US Forest service?

      12. Kelly Zasada    

        I’m interested please.

      13. Peter Kwong    

        Yes, i would love some more information about your program and the Montana one also.

      14. Leilani Parrish    

        Hi Mr. Cottrell, could you send me more info regarding the US forest service training program. Thx

      15. Fred T Brackens    

        Hi Dan

        US Army and Vietnam Era draftee. I’m interested in any and all information you can furnish me if it’s not a problem. I’m an older guy but in great shape and very serious after reading the Montana story. I appreciate your offering the info. Thank you very much
        Brother in Arms
        F. Brackens

      16. Nathan Potter    

        Mr. Cottrell,

        Interested in any and all opportunities if you don’t mind emailing.

        Nathan P.

      17. Gary Hicks    


        Please provide a link, or send a document to newmedia@va.gov and we will forward to those interested. We do not allow public posting of email addresses.

      18. Robert Gable    

        Can you send me some information on the woodland fire fighting and where I need to go thank you in advance

        Robert Gable retired army

      19. Dan    

        Dan Cotrell,
        please send me more info on joining US Forest service

Comments are closed.