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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Betting on Vets Benefits Mission Accomplishment

By Jane Hendron, Public Affairs Specialist, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

   2 people talking on open landscapeSherri Sullivan, Head of Wildlife Management Section for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton's Environmental Security Department, and Frank Winters, intern with Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, discuss endangered Pacific pocket mouse research and recovery efforts. Photo by USFWS

There are numerous military installations within the 55,000 square miles encompass the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Office’s area of responsibility, including Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton; Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms; and U.S. Army National Training Center, Fort Irwin. The heavy concentration of military installations also means thousands of veterans living in local communities. “Partnering with the San Diego County Veterans Affairs’ Regional Office (VA) to provide transitioning veterans with career development opportunities was a natural fit for us,” says Scott Sobiech, Deputy Field Supervisor at the Carlsbad Office.

PHOTO GALLERY: Veterans in the Fish and Wildlife Service

Since 2011, the Carlsbad Office has welcomed seven returning veterans with internships – one through the VA’s Coming Home to Work Program and the remaining six through its Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) Program.

The VR&E Program offers internships of up to 12 months in compatible positions with federal, state and local government agencies. Veterans are paid a monthly stipend by the VA while gaining practical job experience and identifying potential employment opportunities.

   people standing for group photoIntern Joshua Ray (top right), along with staff from Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and San Diego Zoo Global, released endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly lavae onto a portion of the San Diego Refuge to further recovery of the species. Photo by USFWS

“To carry the mission of conservation forward in the coming decades, we need to remain relevant,” says Mendel Stewart, field supervisor for the Carlsbad Office. “America’s diversity is unique, and we want to reflect that in our workforce. Having different experiences and viewpoints can help improve how we achieve our mission.”

WORK WITH US! Information for Veterans

The veterans at the Carlsbad Office came with diverse backgrounds and skills – interns have assisted the Public Affairs Division, worked on Environmental Contaminants projects, provided important administrative assistance and participated in wildlife-related field work.

  Frank Winter on active duty with the US Army Frank Winter on active duty with the US Army.

Frank Winter, a veteran of the U.S. Army, completed his degree in Environmental Studies at Hawaii Pacific University and interned at both the Carlsbad and Palm Springs Offices accompanying biologists on site visits as part of federal agency consultations, conducting surveys for endangered Laguna Mountains skipper butterflies, helping to process recovery permits and providing administrative support to the office. “For me, getting an inside look at the work environment, the culture, and resolving problems in real time helped me understand how everyone contributes to the mission,” said Winter. “My experience with the Service gave me an idea of where my real passion lies and what I want for myself in a career.”

  Joshua Ray
Intern Joshua Ray on active duty with the USMC.

Winter was able to successfully parlay his internship to a term position with the U.S. Geological Society. Working out of the USGS’s office in San Diego, Winter is now part of five-member team devoted to developing a regional management and monitoring program for wildlife and plants.

Of the seven veterans who have interned at the Carlsbad Office, three have full-time employment with Interior bureaus. Two of the other interns now work full time for other federal agencies and one is returning to college, but will continue volunteering for the Carlsbad Office’s Environmental Contaminants program.

”The VA San Diego Regional Office’s VR&E Office is proud of the accomplishments our VR&E Officers do on a daily basis in direct support of our transition service members and veterans, says Pat Prieb, Director of the San Diego VA Regional Office. “The transition from military to civilian life is a difficult evolution, but with dedicated collaboration and support from other Departments makes this navigation that much easier on behalf of service members and veterans.” 

“Many veterans may feel lost when they leave the military and may not feel appreciated in the civilian world,” says Winter. “Internships can lead to the next door and give everyone a chance to learn from each other. I hope more people are able to utilize these kinds of opportunities.”

“It takes a bit of effort to establish new connections with potential employment candidates,” says Stewart. “But the rewards are well worth it. We have definitely benefitted from having new and different skillsets and viewpoints as we work to fulfill our conservation mission.”

As in nature, the most diverse ecosystems are the most resilient, the same holds true for our workforce.   

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