Conserving the Nature of America
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Warriors in Transition Help Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

November 7, 2012

Refuge Manager Jason Lewis watches Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher Refuge Maintenance Worker and disabled veteran Kevin Bernheisel, saw wood for the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Refuge Manager Jason Lewis watches Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher Refuge Maintenance Worker and disabled veteran Kevin Bernheisel, saw wood for the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS

U.S. Army soldiers Randy Aspacher and Jeff Barrett are no strangers to challenging work. Both men are currently recovering and rehabilitating in Northwest Ohio from injuries sustained during active duty. Through the Army’s Warriors in Transition Program, injured military personnel are given the opportunity to recover off-site from their assigned military base so they can spend time with their families and work to help their hometown communities.

Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher with Refuge Manager Jason Lewis in front the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Warrior in Transition Volunteer Randy Aspacher with Refuge Manager Jason Lewis in front the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS

Barrett’s station is Fort Knox, but through the Warriors in Transition Program, he is able to recover near his family in Northwest Ohio. He began volunteering for Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge several years ago when he was laid off from a Chrysler auto plant. He kept his skills sharp by putting his expertise to work and helping to repair equipment at the refuge. Later, after re-enlisting in the U.S. Army, Barrett was injured and returned home for medical care. During his transition, he works at the refuge a few days each week.

These soldiers spend their recovery time outdoors, working to fulfill the goals of the refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “With equipment in tip top shape, our staff are able to improve and maintain parts of the refuge such as mowing along dikes, road sides and trails. These sites provide safe and high quality wildlife viewing access for the public,” said refuge manager Jason Lewis.

Aspacher and Barrett chose to work at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge as part of their recovery program. With budgets getting increasingly tighter, having the extra help makes a huge difference in project completion rates.

Refuge manager Jason Lewis with Warrior in Transition Volunteer Jeff Barrett standing near a mower he is repairing. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS
Photo Caption: Refuge manager Jason Lewis with Warrior in Transition Volunteer Jeff Barrett standing near a mower he is repairing. Credit: Jennifer Brown / USFWS

Aspacher and Barrett are skilled mechanics and assist the maintenance staff in several important duties such as repairing and maintaining equipment, construction of trails, restoring facilities and have recently worked extensively on the Boss Unit Shorebird Observation Platform, a large-scale project. The platform took several days to complete, with the help of a dozen volunteers, and having experienced, handy volunteers like Aspacher and Barrett really helped move things along quickly.

Aspacher and Barrett spend their time helping to improve the refuge not only for their community, but also to help wildlife. You may call them warriors in transition but around here we consider them a part of our refuge family.

 

 

 

 


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Learn more about the Warrior Transition Program: http://wtc.army.mil/about_us/wtu.html

By Jennifer Brown, Visitor Services Specialist,  Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

 



Last updated: November 8, 2012
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