From vets to firefighters

Stanton Florea
Pacific Southwest Region & Tiffany Holloway, Office of Communication
May 16th, 2013 at 7:45PM

The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with the California Conservation Corps to provide firefighter training for military veterans.

“Fire and Aviation Management is particularly appealing because of the significance of our mission and our well-defined organization,” said Robert Baird, deputy director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Forest Service.

A pilot program started with three crews in 2011 which resulted in the hiring of 45 veterans. Because the pilot was such a success, the partnership agreement was extended and expanded in 2012.

More than 50 military veterans between the ages of 19 and 27 participated in this year’s training, bringing a total of 100 firefighters in the program.

“The Forest Service helps with the recruiting, provides the wildland fire training for them and obviously hires them on fires we may have,” said Rob Griffith, Fire Aviation Management assistant director in California.

Some of the California participant’s military backgrounds include:

  • Hank Lilienthal, 28, of Sacramento. He served in the Navy for eight years, including seven months as a hospital corpsman in Iraq.
  • Justin Jacobson, 24, of Elverta. He served in the Army Reserves for six years, where he worked in communications.
  • William Joyal, 22, of Colusa. He was on active duty in the Army for two years as a heavy equipment operator.

 “The main focus of this program is for crews to accomplish fuels reduction projects,” said Griffith. “The veterans have received training and exposure from the two agencies. This program will also broaden our skilled applicant pool for future Forest Service recruiting, which is a great deal.”