During National Park Week, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Chris Loudenslager, who is now a National Park Service superintendent.
From 1988 to 1992, Chris Loudenslager served in the Army infantry, and with A Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from 1988-1990. In December 1989, he parachuted into Panama during the initial invasion of Operation Just Cause.
From 1993 to 1997, he served as an Army Special Forces Communications Sergeant. While a member of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Operational Detachment-Alpha 345 and 346, Loudenslager deployed to Haiti and the Caribbean Islands. He trained, advised and assisted the Haitian Presidential Security Detachment as a member of the Presidential Security Advisory Unit. He also served as a special operations liaison to the United Nations during Operation Uphold Democracy.
Loudenslager returned to college in 1997 but, as a non-traditional student, he felt increasingly isolated, and recalled thinking, “They should just stick me in the woods on a mountaintop somewhere: I wonder if they pay anyone to do that?”
These thoughts led him to transfer to Michigan Technological University to pursue a major in forestry. At a job fair, Loudenslager met a National Park Service (NPS) representative from Isle Royale National Park. Loudenslager knew the representative’s husband, a senior noncommissioned officer, from their time in Special Forces together. The peaceful island wilderness environment was exactly the sort of setting he had envisioned, and he worked as a temporary employee in Isle Royal National Park for four seasons.
After Loudenslager received his bachelor’s degree in forestry, he earned a master’s degree in policy and park management at Michigan State University and spent some time working as a trails technician for the U.S. Forest Service. In 2015, Loudenslager returned to the NPS as a permanent employee as the trail planner for the 5,000-mile long North Country National Scenic Trail.
He later became the trail manager and then achieved his ultimate goal of being a park superintendent in 2019. Loudenslager explained how his career provides him with the opportunity to “…leverage [his] special forces experiences with working with people that are different than [him] to build coalitions around a common goal, then working hand-in-hand with these groups as an active and credible partner to provide the training, technical assistance and guidance they need to be successful.”
As the superintendent of the nation’s longest national scenic trail, Loudenslager is actively involved in providing employment and recreational opportunities for military members and Veterans and said he feels a personal connection when he hears of them benefiting from experiences provided by the country’s longest national scenic trail.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Hannah Nelson
Editor: Katherine Berman, Lauren Dahler
Fact checker: Crystal Moore
Graphic artist: Erin Gallagher