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Military vets train to become wildland firefighters

The Southwest Conservation Corps program began training vets to fight forest fires in 2009, and since then more than 250 military personnel have graduated the course

The Durango Herald

HESPERUS, Colo. — One of the most difficult challenges for servicemen leaving the military is the re-assimilation into civilian life. However, a small organization in Hesperus is making a big impact.

“It’s hard to go from having so much power as a soldier — what you’re able to do given your job,” said Zachary Dancy, who served six years in the Army National Guard, spending two years as a medic in Afghanistan. “Then going into the civilian world where you might be working at Wal-Mart. To become a civilian again is almost impossible.”

Dancy, 31, is now in his second year as a crew leader for the Southwest Conservation Corps program that trains recently released military veterans to become wildland firefighters. On Tuesday, he ushered in the graduation of 10 new members. “A lot of these guys are just coming off of deployment,” Dancy said. “I’ve seen firsthand this program work to help them re-acclimate.”

Full story: In fighting fires, vets rediscover camaraderie, purpose