Last month, National Volunteer Week took place from April 19-25. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) highlighted a few of their employees in Texas who started their careers as Earth Team volunteers. Two of those volunteers were Operation Warfighter (OWF) interns and Veterans Chris Albanesi and Benjamin Harrison.
This story originally appears on USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Services' website.
By Melissa Blair, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist
“Texas has had great success with the Operation Warfighter Program,” said Doug Rose, acting assistant state conservationist for management and strategy. “Benjamin Harrison and Chris Albanesi are two great examples. They both started working for us under OWF and were hired using veteran special hiring authority once they transitioned out of the military and continue to do great work for us today. They have stayed with us which shows me that veterans are not afraid of commitment and sticking to it.”
Operation Warfighter (OWF) is a temporary assignment/internship program developed by the Department of Defense for service members that are convalescing at military treatment facilities throughout the U.S.
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After serving 20 years in the Army, Chris learned about the Earth Team volunteer program through Fort Hood’s OWF during his retirement process.
As a volunteer, Chris was part of the management and strategy staff and worked in vehicle maintenance and management of the state office motor pool for in-state vehicle management-transfers, tracking, accountability, assessments; state office warehouse maintenance and management including archives and storage. Now he also works with cooperative and contribution agreements and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program and watershed agreements.
"Working as an Earth Team volunteer was a great opportunity to understand the NRCS mission while getting to see and experience the day-to-day operations of the agency,” said Albanesi. “It is a great place to work.”
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Benjamin Harrison, retired major from the US Army, served as an Earth Team volunteer in 2017 at the NRCS state office in Temple and Belton field office. NRCS had a hiring freeze when Ben wanted to apply with NRCS, so he accepted a position with another agency.
In March 2018, Rose contacted him about a soil conservation technician position and he readily accepted. Ben reported to the Floresville NRCS field office in June 2018, where he has worked with District Conservationist Jason Katcsmorak and, at the time, Soil Conservationist Stephanie Hayek to learn more about NRCS, conservation planning and soil health. Ben applied and was hired as a soil conservationist at the Arlington NRCS office and will be moving to his new position in April. He is also completing his master’s degree in public administration and will be writing a detailed conservation plan as a thesis.
“There are many successful stories about Earth Team volunteers and Pathway interns, who like these employees, discovered their calling with NRCS while learning hands-on in the field and the office,” said Melissa Blair, NRCS state Earth Team coordinator in Texas. “We encourage NRCS employees to share their experience with us and others like potential candidates, to continue successfully increasing our diverse workforce in Texas and other states.”
To read the entire article, visit USDA National Resource Conservation Service website.
For more information about Operation Warfighter, visit here.