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Mantra Gives Employee Structure For Amazing 38 Year Career

  • By Kerry Greene, Public Affairs Specialist, Pacific Southwest Region, Fire and Aviation
Two men stand looking at camera with one holding award. A photo of the award inscription. A group of men stand between two Cobra helicopters.

"If you work hard you can become anything you want in the Forest Service. Anything is possible."

Stan Kubota said these words and practiced that mantra during his 38 year career in the U.S. Forest Service. He enjoyed many exciting opportunities, managing programs and contracts in the agency’s aviation program, but he always thought of himself as a firefighter.

Kubota began his Forest Service career in 1980 on a Young Adult Conservation Corps crew. He then transferred to the Lassen National Forest and worked at the Mineral station under Gary McHargue. Not one to stop exploring his options, in 1982 he obtained a permanent appointment working at the Temescal station on the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest, more than 600 miles away.  In 1983 and 1984 he became an elite member of the El Cariso Hotshots, also based on the Trabuco Ranger District.

In 1985 he raised the bar even more, becoming a Smokejumper.

A man stands looking at camera holding an award.

Aviation Operations Specialist, Stan Kubota, poses with Smokey Bear showing the plaque he was presented with on Jan. 31, 2018. (Forest Service photo by Yolanda Saldana)

Kubota spent 15 years parachuting into remote locations to tackle wildfires.  Some of his most memorable fire seasons occurred during those years. He spent 45 days in West Yellowstone on the Yellowstone fires in 1988. In 1999, the Bar Complex Fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was the only fire he jumped into three times over the course of one season.

In 2000 Kubota made his way back to the Lassen National Forest as the Tanker Base Manager behind Jerry Levitoff. Two years later he became the Forest Aviation Officer for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

While working as the Forest Aviation Officer, he was surprised when he was asked what he thought about flying air attack in a helicopter. Up until that point air attack had always been flown in a fixed wing aircraft. That was when he had the opportunity, together with Dennis Brown, Morgan Mills, Paul Markowitz and others, to establish the Firewatch program.

Kubota never expected less than three years later he would become the program manager of the Firewatch program. In 2005 he accepted a position at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Regional headquarters in Vallejo, California, as the program manager overseeing the Cobra aircraft and the Firewatch program. The program had a lot of moving parts, contracts and accountable property. It was complex.

In 2014 Kubota became the Fixed Wing Operations specialist at the regional office. He says that looking back over his career some of his best challenges were developing the Firewatch Program, designing an air tanker base which included completing the National Environmental Policy Act process; competing for capital improvement projects for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and writing the proposal to establish the Merced-Castle Air Tanker Base.

The specifications for the Castle Base were timely in the changeover of the Forest Service fleet of air tankers. The new generation of tankers had different requirements.

  • The fuel changed from Avgas to Jet A;
  • The planes needed longer runways;
  • The runways and loading areas needed to be rated for higher weight limits and;
  • Some bases needed better service capacity.

After completing the specifications for Castle Base, he had a good template that could be used for other bases as the fleet was changing. Even in his last year of service he was exploring other options and had the great opportunity to complete a temporary promotional detail as the Regional Aviation Officer for the Pacific Southwest Region.

Reflecting on his years in the fire service Kubota said, “Take care of the people who depend on you to do your job. Take care of each other.”