Lance Dion, Firefighter, City of Boulder
“Green” was not a topic Lance Dion had thought much about as he was growing up. Although he was raised in Vermont and considers himself an outdoors kind of a person, activities like forest thinning for the purposes of conservation didn’t really get him charged up. Physical labor, on the other hand, is something he loves.
“I like coming back at end of the day feeling tuckered. It feels like I accomplished something,” Lance says. So when he heard about the Veterans Green Jobs training program, he was attracted to the physical aspects of the work. And, he adds, “Forest fire mitigation sounded like something I could get into.”
At 23, Lance stumbled upon Veterans Green Jobs while searching the Internet for jobs. On Craigslist he found postings for crew member training positions through Veterans Green Jobs’ partner, Southwest Conservation Corps, in Durango, Colorado. The trail crews would conduct fire mitigation and hazardous fuel removal in the southern Rockies. After a phone interview to determine his eligibility, he moved to Durango and jumped in.
It was a good fit for Lance: “It was straight up grunt manual labor.” Plus, he adds, “I was pumped to get working with vets again.”
As a military veteran of the war in Iraq, Lance misses the Marine Corps. “There was a brotherhood, a sense of belonging. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been there,” he says, speaking in a tone that couldn’t be mistaken for anything but dedication and pride.
In the year since he’d left the Marines, he hadn’t had much interaction with other military people, and missed the camaraderie he can only find with other vets. Working alongside other recently returning vets, he felt connected again. “But instead of using an M16, I had a chainsaw,” he points out.
Lance earned an S131-90 certification through a basic wildland firefighter course. He also received an S212 certification from the wildland chainsaw course, where he learned safety cutting techniques and procedures.
With these new assets under his belt, he was qualified to look for a job in firefighting. For a while, he worked for a construction company. While there, he leveraged his networking connections and discovered a job opening at the City of Boulder Fire Rescue Wildland Division; he applied, and was hired as a wildfire mitigation crewmember.
Lance says Veterans Green Jobs played a huge role in preparing him for his new line of work: “I got good training, and the experience hooked me up with lots of resources that I could utilize. It prepared me for being out in the wilderness and gave me good life skills for my first living experience out west.”
While Lance describes himself as a person who puts one hundred percent effort into everything he does, he knows it’s not always easy for others. His wish for other veterans is that they find something meaningful as they transition back to civilian life here in the U.S.
His words offer encouragement to others: “I hope everyone is able to put their all into the military while they’re in it, then get out and have a decent transition. It’s different for everybody.”