Gila National Forest Employees Retire

Release Date: Oct 17, 2011  

Silver City, New Mexico; October 14, 2011—Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell has announced three recent Gila National Forest retirements.  “Whenever employees retire, I always feel very appreciative of the many years of dedicated public service these employees have provided!  Their many years of experience and knowledge are to be admired.  I sincerely wish them a happy and fullfilling retirement,” says Russell.


One of the retirees is Al Koss, former District Ranger on the Wilderness Ranger District (RD). Koss’s career began in the summer of 1976 when he was hired by the Ottawa National Forest in Michigan as aYouth Conservation Corps (YCC) Crew Leader. At the time, Koss was attending the University of Michigan, pursuing a degree in Forestry and Natural Resource Management. “It was this experience that laid the foundation for my long and rewarding career,” said Koss.


Over the next 34 years, Koss served in eight National Forests, three National Parks, and one National Recreation area. He worked as a Crew Leader, Wilderness Program Manager, Timber Forester, a Park Ranger and Lead Interpreter with the National Park Service, and did two separate assignments as a District Ranger with the Forest Service. 


In retirement, Koss has moved back to Montana where he looks forward to traveling, gardening, and volunteering with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation. Koss’s can-do attitude, thirst for knowledge, and inspiring demeanor were some of his strengths.      


Another recent retiree is Diego Aragon. After fighting 1,000 fires throughout the nation, he finally quit counting about six years ago. Having worked for the Gila National Forest for the entirety of his Forest Service career, Aragon was known as the type of person that always gave credit to his co-workers for work accomplished and was a true leader in setting the example of a high work ethic and teamwork.  Wherever help was needed, Aragon was there.


He started working for the forest in 1984 as a seasonal firefighter on what was then the Luna Ranger District (RD); the former Luna RD has for several years been consolidated with the Quemado RD.  After a few years, Aragon was promoted to Engine Foreman, then as Station Manager at the former Luna RD, and then again as Engine Foreman on the Reserve Ranger District where he ended up retiring. 


During his many fire assignments, he served as Division Supervisor on National Incident Type I and Type II teams and also as an Incident Commander for a Type 3 team.  As a general rule, Type 1 National Teams manage large wildland fires with over 500 people assigned and address the most complicated logistical, fiscal, planning, operational and safety issues. Aragon says the most challenging fire assignments were always those out of state.


“I will miss all my friends in the Forest Service,” said Aragon, during his last week at work. 


After 34 years of federal service, Pete Masiel, the Forest Center Dispatch Manager, left the Forest Service. Masiel's duties served a key role in fire management.  The dispatching of firefighting personnel, aircraft, and the coordination with all government agencies whether federal, state, or local were managed out of Masiel’s office.  Search and Rescue incidents as well as military operations were also other key activities coordinated out of Dispatch.

The interagency coordination involved all risk management incidents such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. to protect life, property, & natural resources in any national or international emergency.

In retirement, Masiel looks forward to riding his bike and staying active while enjoying the community. As an avid bicylist, Pete has competed in many races across the nation and most notably was the world record holder on the stationary bike when he peddled for over 96 hours!