Winner: Southwest Conservation Corps
The prolonged military deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq are resulting in hundreds of thousands of returning veterans in search of work. This highly trained and disciplined workforce needs meaningful work emobodying the ethic of service that brought them into the military. Their significant assets combine with significant challenges: combat trauma and the stress of deployment too often result in tragedy, including suicide rates as high as 120 per week.
Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) has partnered with Veteran Green Jobs (VGJ) to create the Veterans Green Corps (VGC), an all-Vertan Conservation Corps. SCC employes Veteran Corpsmembers and crew leaders to mobilize crews in conservation projects on public lands. VGJ provides wrap-around supportive services including recruitment and screening, benefits coordination, post-program placement and follow-up, and professional develepment.
Most important are the impacts on the participants – some say that working and living among trees and streams helps alleviate their post-traumatic stress. Others find new careers in forestry and mental health professions. The US Forest Servce Region II awarded SCC, in partnership with VGJ, $868,000 of ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvesment Act) funds to operate 12 VGC crews; SCC operated three of those crews in 2009, employing 25 military veterans, and will operate the remainder in 2010 and 2012.