Post-9/11 Veterans looking for a career as a wildland firefighter can apply to the Southeast Conservation Corps Veterans Fire Corps program.
Squads work on fire mitigation and fuels reduction projects on public lands, giving back to the surrounding communities. Veterans must be flexible, adaptable and able to work in a fluid, changing work environment.
The program is open to Veterans aged 18-35 who can meet a host of qualifications. Veterans must also pass a three-mile hike with 45 pounds in 45 minutes. Training locations are in LaFayette, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Georgia program runs Jan. 10 to Sept. 30; the 14-week Tennessee program runs Jan. 10 to April 15.
Southeast Conservation Corps is currently accepting applications, which are open until December or until positions are filled.
Veteran goes from front lines of Syria to front lines of fire
Army Veteran Aaron Conner is a post-9/11 Veteran who took advantage of the program. He served as a field artillery forward observer in the North Carolina National Guard. He was on a deployment to Syria in 2020 when a friend suggested he look into the program.
“I had known a little bit about the job to intrigue me,” Conner said. “The appeal of adventure, danger, hard work and on-the-road lifestyle appealed to me. I knew I would be lost without a purpose once I got out.”
Conner started out in Georgia in the classroom setting, then traveled to different states in the Southeast for prescribed burns. Soon, he found himself in Colorado, Idaho and Oregon for two weeks in each state. He immediately started putting training into action.
“I was initial attack on an engine in Oregon on the Umpqua National Forest,” he said. “There were a lot of lightning starts which grew to become the Devils Knob Complex. We were running and gunning going direct, hiking and sawing interior for hours. It was a good time.”
Advice for others
Not wanting to fall into a trap of not having purpose, Conner said becoming a woodland firefighter has changed his life.
“This past year I spent on the Veterans Crew has allowed me to figure out what I want out of life,” he said. “As a National Guard guy, I spent a bit of time bouncing around a ton of civilian jobs when I wasn’t trying to go on as many details I could find. This is the first time in my life outside of enlistment that I knew I belonged to a profession. I feel at home when I am gone and on the fireline. I love the job and don’t want to do anything else.”
Conner said one of the biggest benefits of being a woodland firefighter is performing a job that matters for Americans – much like serving in the military. Veterans thinking about applying should not hesitate.
“Just go ahead and apply,” he said. “I want you serving with me, the wildland fire community wants you and most importantly, your country needs you. The level of fires have exponentially grown this year. There are not enough people to fight the countless fires that occur every year. If you are looking for a sense of duty then this is for you.”
Benefits to joining
Veterans earn a weekly salary while training and an AmeriCorps Education Award upon successfully completing the program.
Members also earn the following trainings and certifications:
- S130: Firefighter Training
- S190: Intro to Wildland Fire Behavior
- S212: Wildland Fire Chainsaws
- I 100: Introduction to Incident Command System
- IS 700: Introduction to the National Incident Management System
- L 180: Humans Factors in Wildland Fire Service
- First Aid/CPR certificates
- Members must pass the Arduous Work Capacity (PACK) Test within the first two weeks of the season to participate in this program.
About Veterans Fire Corps
The Veterans Fire Corps is collaborative initiative run in partnership with state and federal agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Veterans Fire Corps engages recent-era Veterans on priority hazardous fuels projects while developing the next generation of wildland firefighters.
Learn more and apply
To read a full position description and learn more about the Veterans Fire Corps program and Southeast Conservation Corps, visit these links:
Interested Veterans can also email Lagee@conservationlegacy.org or SECC@conservationlegacy.org.