2018 Corpsmember of the Year: Earl Bowman, Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps

Every year, at The Corps Network’s National Conference in Washington, DC, we honor a select group of exceptional Corpsmembers from our member Service and Conservation Corps. These young men and women have exceeded the expectations of their Corps by exhibiting outstanding leadership skills and demonstrating an earnest commitment to service and civic engagement. The Corpsmembers of the Year are role models; their personal stories and accomplishments are an inspiration to Corpsmembers nationwide. 

*Earl Bowman is being recognized as the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year. The 21CSC is a national initiative to increase the number of young adults and recent veterans serving on public lands. The 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year is a young adult who has served in a member Corps of the 21CSC and is a champion of the initiative’s vision of increasing the engagement of young adults in conservation, preservation, and outdoor recreation. 

Before becoming an AmeriCorps member with the Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps, Earl B. Bowman IV worked various jobs. He tried his hand at commercial printing, but quickly discovered the factory setting was not for him. Wanting to make a difference, he joined the Delaware Air National Guard and served a term in the Support Group squadron.

After completing his service, Earl drove for an ambulance company in his hometown. Although he enjoyed this work, he wanted more. Since the age of 13, Earl has served his community as a volunteer firefighter.  

Knowing his passion to serve, Earl’s mother advised him to join the Veterans Conservation Corps. Admittedly, he was apprehensive; he wasn’t sure he’d be a good fit. However, with continuous encouragement from his mother, Earl decided to give the Corps a try. After only one day in the field, Earl decided to commit to one term.

“My experience with the Delaware Veterans Conservation Corps has been transforming,” said Earl. “Not only did I get to spend 11 months with fellow veterans, but I gained a wealth of knowledge in environmental stewardship and trail maintenance.”

Earl quickly acclimated to the program, becoming the team’s chainsaw expert. He was always willing to help his peers with their skills, patiently explaining and helping them with technique. Earl took advantage of every training offered, eventually earning his wildland firefighting Red Card. About midway through the year, he was clearly becoming a leader.

When the program added new members in the spring and summer, Earl stepped up and became the Team Leader’s “right hand man.” The Team Leader would split the team into two and Earl would lead one group while the Team Leader worked with the other. Earl also supervised when the Team Leader was absent. Additionally, he became the team transportation supervisor and was responsible for the team’s truck. Earl was awarded the State Office on Volunteerism Member of the Year award and the Program Member of the Year award.

Earl led the way in educating the Corps’ summer members in environmental stewardship skills, including how to identify invasive plants and treat them, proper trail trimming techniques, and safe chainsaw operation. Towards the end of the program, Earl was offered employment with Delaware State Parks. However, given the commitment he made to the Corps, Earl waited until the end of the program to accept an offer. Now, as a Conservation Tech with the Delaware State Parks trail team, he continues to be an advocate for the Corps and is always looking to engage the current cohort in trail projects.

Despite taking on many roles, Earl continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter. He often works all week with Delaware State Parks, then serves all weekend with the fire company. For the future, Earl plans to use his AmeriCorps education award to finish the necessary trainings to become an EMT and continue serving his community on a part-time basis.

Earl Bowman truly lives the motto, “Service before Self.”