Veterans find community, hard work in rare firefighting crew
November 24, 2018
Of the 25 positions on the crew, 17 are filled by veterans, McGirr said. There are three additional openings, and McGirr said he wants to recruit female veterans, too.SALEM, Ore. - After being in firefights in Afghanistan and Iraq, members of one of America's newest elite wildfire crews are tasked with fighting fires in rugged country back home.
On the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's only hotshot crew focused on recruiting veterans, members have traded assault rifles and other weapons of war for chainsaws and shovels. But, like in the military, they have camaraderie, structure, and chain of command. And the occasional adrenaline rush.
Crew superintendent Michael McGirr said he and other managers took then-President Barack Obama's initiative to hire veterans to heart."We felt it was important for them to transition back home," McGirr said.
"Being in a firefight is way different than being in a wildland fire, but both are mentally taxing," said Chris Schott, who served two tours in Afghanistan with the Army's 7th Special Forces Group. "In a wildland fire, no one's shooting at you, but conditions can go favorable to unfavorable very quickly."
The Lakeview Veterans Interagency Hotshot Crew, based in Klamath Falls, Oregon, received its hotshot certification after rigorous training and testing, the Bureau of Land Management announced last week. It's now among 112 elite U.S. wildland firefighting teams and the only targeting veterans for recruitment, the agency said.
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