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Veterans Inject Military Values into the U.S. Forest Service Workforce

Mary Laub’s graduation, Williams Air Force Base, January 1984. Photo courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers.

Mary Laub’s graduation, Williams Air Force Base, January 1984. Photo courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers.

We’ve all heard catchy military slogans like Be All You Can Be, Get an Edge on Life and Aim High. Three of the Forest Service’s finest can identify with each of these mantras. As former airmen and soldier, they proudly served in the U.S. Air Force and Army.

Former Air Force pilot Mary Laub touts serving in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as her most unforgettable experiences.  She flew C-141 cargo aircraft hauling troops and supplies between McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., and various sandy locations in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

“It was an incredible logistical feat involving thousands of airmen who turned deserts into landing strips, built cities overnight and provided air support to keep planes flying,” Laub said.

Laub received an Air Force ROTC scholarship and graduated from College of the Holy Cross. That helped her integrate smoothly into the military as the only female graduate from her section of the class of ‘84.

After serving nine years, Laub left the military in 1991 and now works as a budget officer on the Eldorado National Forest. She said her transition from a military career to the Forest Service was seamless.

“The military taught me the value of teamwork and the ability to work together with diverse people toward a common goal,” she said, adding that the fit seemed natural. “My love for the mountains and frequent outdoor explorations with the family gives me a greater appreciation for recreational opportunities the Forest Service provides.”

Air Force veteran Russell Roberds, shares his experience as an airborne cryptologic Chinese linguist.  Roberds’ highly classified duties required learning foreign languages, intercepting and deciphering military intelligence and undergoing airborne training. He said his career sent him to 32 countries. He flew the RC-135, first produced in the 1960’s and is still used today.

“Although I’m retired from the military, I still honor the Air Force’s core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do,” he said. “I consistently apply these values to the work I do with the Forest Service.”

Roberds described his transition from the military to the Federal workforce as a “piece a cake.”  At the time, his wife Lindsey was a member of the support staff in the Intermountain Region in Ogden, Utah.

David Melancon captured his most unforgettable military experiences through print and film. He boldly boasts about his tour with the Army.

David Melancon covering US Army Corps of Engineers building projects in Afghanistan, May 2012.  Photo courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers.

David Melancon covering US Army Corps of Engineers building projects in Afghanistan, May 2012. Photo courtesy of US Army Corps of Engineers.

“My proudest time as a soldier was serving as the public affairs section chief with the 1st Armored Division team in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said.

Melancon enlisted in 1984 and retired as a master sergeant in 2006. He now works as a public affairs specialist on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Today, Melancon said he would encourage Forest Service hiring officials to go where the veterans are by visiting local transition centers and job fairs that target vets.

“With that said, veterans also own some responsibility in finding meaningful employment,” he said.

Hiring veterans remains a focal point of the Forest Service’s National Recruitment and Diversity Plan. Approximately 4,800 Forest Service employees are veterans, representing almost 12 percent of the workforce.

The Forest Service partners with various veteran agencies and organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Program, VetSuccess, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and local veteran organizations to recruit and match veterans, including disabled veterans, to vacant positions within the agency.

In honor of America’s veterans, the U.S. Forest Service is waiving most fees during the Veterans Day weekend.  To find out more, click here.

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