Texas Conservation Corps Transitions

I’ve been a crew leader with TxCC for almost two years now and today is my last day. It’s also my first attempt at a blog post and I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to condense my whole TxCC experience down to just a few paragraphs. I’ve logged over 4,300 hours with this program, responded to four disasters in four different states, spiked in New Mexico and all over Texas, cut tread, built rock walls, cut down hundreds of hazard trees, killed countless invasive plants, managed volunteers, listened to homeowners stories….the list goes on and on. Some of the work I loved, and some not so much. At times my crews made me so proud I couldn’t stop bragging about them, and at other times I’ve wanted to strangle the whole lot. At the end of the day, they’ve been my weird little family and I’ll never lose that bond.

But here is the real take-away message and, to me, it’s the biggest surprise of them all.  From that jumbled assortment of people thrown together in a cargo van, being sent all over the country with little to no idea of what exactly to expect… this ‘jobs training’ program… it really works. Somewhere along the meandering path I’ve had with TxCC, I’m not sure when or where, I became someone you’d want to hire. A competent, capable leader, with a variety of technical, logistical, and communication skills… someone who can both hold her own at a meeting with an important community leader, or geek out about chainsaws with a park employee.

So now I’m off to a new job with the Forest Service. I feel ready and trained, but I also know that I’ll miss the hell out of this program. Thanks, TxCC.

Lisa Potter, Crew Leader, Emergency Response Team

Texas Conservation Corps – It Will Change You!

A year ago, I was sitting in a cubicle in Washington DC. My days were spent filling out excel sheets, pinging emails back and forth, and periodically checking ESPN for the latest NFL injury reports. The fantasy football season was in full tilt.

Although I couldn’t always explain why, for most of my childhood and into my adulthood, I had intended to join the military. What I wanted all along, I learned to realize, was a career with a pace that would keep me engaged and challenged, filled with excitement and opportunity. The armed forces seemed tailor made for me. In my junior year of college, however, I learned that I was ineligible for service.  And so, just like that, I found myself in a cubicle instead.

In between the routine I described above, I checked USA Jobs constantly, trying to find something exciting- a career that I could really love. I stared enviously at the postings I found there. Sometimes I applied. I looked at jobs which had exciting words like “Helitack”, or more mundane ones like “Handcrew” in their descriptions. And of course, the most desirable postings of them all were those which ended with the word “Smokejumper” in parenthesis. But no matter what they called themselves, all of those postings represented something I wanted. The first step, the last step, or somewhere in between along a career path I had imagined for myself, somewhere down the road.

Wishes notwithstanding, I was laughably unqualified. I wracked my brain searching for ways to get the experience I needed.

And then I found out about the conservation corps world. I had friends from Texas, and I knew it was an area which was under constant threat of wildfire. I applied for all of the Texas Conservation Corps positions, hoping that I’d get accepted and once there, learn practical skills and the value of hard work in unforgiving heat. And maybe, just maybe, find a way to get my foot in the door with a job I day dreamed about.

I’m not in DC anymore. I’ve forgotten how to navigate the Excel taskbar and learned how to operate a chainsaw. My experience to date has been more rewarding in more ways than I ever could have imagined. I’m excited to have gotten that chance to put my foot in that door, and open up a world of opportunities which thus far has remained off-limits to me.

Matt Lore, Field Crew Member