There are only three months left in the 1700 AmeriCorps term of service at Texas Conservation Corps. The past hitch found green crew, once again, and for the last time, in McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area. It could be considered the ‘great known.’ We experienced this forest in one hundred degree heat and in torrential rains. Its swimming holes were our public baths of choice. We found scorpions. We fought off raccoons from getting into tents and garbage. We described our own myths/legends for the park. We hiked more of its trail system than most of the locals who know the park. It was ours and we knew it. Now, we are leaving a place of comfortable familiarity for another unknown.
Texas Conservation Corps members are used to working in unknown situations. For example, most of the people, when they first arrived, had never run a chainsaw. Rigging up a saw, after seven months of work, is now a part of the regular course of events and nothing out of the ordinary. Oftentimes, our project specifics will include useful phrases like ‘trail maintenance.’ Trail maintenance includes, but is not limited to, corridor clearance, tread work, brushing, hazardous tree felling, limbing, barrier installation, rock removal; and so on… you can see how unknown situations become the only foreseeable known. The work related unknowns, I am confident that we will be able to handle quite easily. Equipment and interpersonal unknowns are more complicated.
With hardware, we need to match up the work with the tools. It is quite hard to cut down a tree with a hammer. We have been working on corridor clearance for such a long period of time, that we know the tools needed to effectively accomplish that task. Troubleshooting saws in the field is somewhat of a specialty. Recently, the nature of the work has changed and therefore the tools needed have also changed. Without accurate information from a project sponsor about the type of work to be done, it will be mostly guess work in trying to take the appropriate tools. In this, crew leaders are entirely reliant on their project sponsors to relay accurate information to their field coordinator who then relays the information to the crew leaders. With each step of communication comes the added risk of miscommunication. Finally, the crew leaders need to relay what is needed to crew members. Mostly, crew leaders rely on past experience to determine what is required for the job and the numbers needed for each tool. Effective communication is the only way all these pieces fall into place. The last, and greatest, unknown is related to interpersonal crew relations.
Interpersonal crew relationships are complicated and cannot be encapsulated in a single blog post. Every person has a unique personality, with strengths and weaknesses that he or she brings to the table. Three months are left in the season and working so closely with people who have potentially abrasive personalities, when put together, can be challenging to keep together. Of this issue, I will write in more detail after this next hitch to Mississippi.
By: JJ Crumpler