BHNFâï¿½ï¿½hosts Veterans Fire Corps
Published: Thursday, September 5th, 2013
For the past two summers, the Black Hills National Forest has had veterans working side by side with firefighters and other Forest employees as part of the Veterans Fire Corps program.
This summer, both Mystic and Hell Canyon Ranger districts hosted these veteran teams. Each team has a project leader and five members.
This unique program, specifically for men and women who have served in the armed forces, is designed to prepare veterans for positions as wildland firefighters. The program is geared toward training veterans to protect public lands from the threat of wildfire. The program is operated as a partnership with the Student Conservation Association.
Tim Gurnett, from Omaha, Neb., is a project leader for the Arapaho National Forest in Colorado. He worked as a project leader on Hell Canyon Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest last summer. Gurnett served in the Navy for five years and is now a member of the Naval Reserve. He is in his third year with the program and likes everything about it.
“It is refreshing to be with people who have similar experiences and similar issues,” said Gurnett. “I love this kind of work and it is good to be around fellow veterans. It is good to talk together and work together and gives us something to be proud of again.”
Gurnett is a senior at the University of Nebraska and is working on a double major in environmental studies and criminal justice. He hopes to land a law enforcement position with a land management agency such as the U.S. Forest Service.
One of Gurnett’s team members from last summer is now a project leader on the Big Horn National Forest in Buffalo, Wyo. Mike Madalena, from Williamson, N.Y., served in the Marine Corps for four years and completed two combat tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Madalena is passionate about the program and feels one of the best parts of the Veterans Fire Corps is that it is therapeutic.
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