Drip Torches, Dragon guns, and Shania Twain

By: Kelsey Brock

Hey everyone! I’m Kelsey, part of Mankato Crew one.  

So far, we have just finished three weeks of training (orientation, chainsaw, and Wildland Fire).

First was orientation, and when we first got there my introverted side, which is about 80-ish percent according to a very scientific Buzzfeed quiz, hesitated at the room full of people. I could tell just from looking around, we were a huge mix of different personalities and backgrounds. I’ll admit, I questioned a few times why I was there. And even getting into the hands-on training, sometimes I found myself up on some bluff with a chainsaw thinking “what the heck is a scrawny girl like me doing out here?”

But once they told us more about the Corps mission...I knew I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. We may be different, but we’re all here for this common purpose:  to restore and have our lives, and the lives of those we’re serving, changed. I realized I am part of something that means something. We’re the ones putting boots to the ground and doing meaningful work. That’s pretty cool, and honestly, it was my okay-that’s-why-I’m-here moment.

 Me, Shania, and our first tree!

Me, Shania, and our first tree!

Next, chainsaws. The first thing you need to know about those things is that they are hard to start up (also, I mean, they’re dangerous too). Whenever my chainsaw, Shania Twain, cooperates I say a silent thank you to her.  

We were working in snow, mud, tangled buckthorn, and on steep bluffs. This was hard work, but let me tell you, a simple burger and salad have never tasted so good to me than after a long day operating a chainsaw.

Last was Wildland Fire training. Right away, we did our work capacity test (3mi. in 45min. carrying 45lbs.). Then, four days of classroom material and a field day. 

We had a lot of information thrown our way, but it’s information that will actually save our lives, which is something I am so willing to sit in a classroom for however long it takes to get. Although, I think we can all agree the anticipation to get back to bathrooms with actual stall doors was felt by everyone. Sitting for hours very close to a lot of people and a lot of opinions made a stressful week. For me, getting away and going for a run is what helps. I think it’s all about finding your thing that will get you back to the understanding that this life is still so astoundingly beautiful despite everything.

Friday, we practiced things like line digging, mop ups, hoses, and FINALLY got to play with drip torches and dragon guns to light things on fire.

And in the end, I have a much bigger respect for this than I did before.

So, chainsaw trained, check. Wildland firefighter trained, check.

Now, let’s see what this scrawny girl can do with it! 

 Some of Southern District's crew members

Some of Southern District's crew members