21CSC Corpsmember of the Year Speaks at Launch of National Commission on Service

Left to right: Kent Abernathy, Executive Director, National Commission on Military, National and Public Service; Earl Bowman, 21CSC Corpsmember of the Year, 2018; Mary Ellen Sprenkel, President & CEO, The Corps Network.


January 18 marked the official launch of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. As the name implies, the Commission’s task is to explore ways to increase participation across these three service categories with the overarching goal of addressing America’s security and domestic challenges.

In a recent op-ed published in The Hill, Commission Chairman Dr. Joe Heck said the Commission “…intend[s] to listen to the American public, and learn from those who serve — and who want to serve — to determine how best to instill a strong spirit of service and identify barriers to service.”

Dr. Heck, and others in attendance at the Commission’s launch event in Washington, DC, had the chance to listen to Earl Bowman, The Corps Network’s 2018 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Corpsmember of the Year and an AmeriCorps alumnus of Delaware State Parks Veterans Conservation Corps.

Earl spoke to a packed room, detailing how he discovered his passion for service. A volunteer firefighter, a member of the Delaware Air National Guard, and now a full-time employee with Delaware State Parks, Earl is a great example of what can be accomplished through service. However, he is by no means the only example. In a few short weeks, The Corps Network will recognize five additional outstanding Corpsmembers of the Year at our 2018 National Conference. 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.

Service and Conservation Corps have a rich history of service to country. As descendants of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – a Depression-era program created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal – today’s Corps, most of which are nonprofits, provide service opportunities for many populations across the country, including people like Earl and other military veterans from all branches.

The CCC was an enormously successful program. During its operation from 1933 to 1942, the program enrolled over 3.4 million persons, including over 25,000 veterans. Corpsmembers lived in camps managed by the U.S. Army and engaged in reforestation and other reclamation projects. The Army’s experience managing an operation of this magnitude provided preparation for the massive call-up of civilians in World War II.

Across the county, modern Corps collectively enroll over 25,000 participants annually. The 21CSC is an initiative to grow the capacity of Corps to engage 100,000 participants annually. Last week, the country got one step closer to this goal with passage of the 21CSC Act out of the United States House Committee on Natural Resources. Among other provisions, this legislation would make it easier for federal agencies to partner with Corps in putting young people and veterans to work on priority projects.

As the Commission gets going, Service and Conservation Corps are a great place to begin exploring ways to engage and inspire a new generation of citizens.