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Where are they now? CCMI Alumni Highlight: Benjamin Brehm-Stecher

Benjamin Brehm-Stecher currently works for the U.S. Marine Corps as a Rifleman. Benjamin served in 2016 with the Iowa Field Timbers Crew in Ames, Iowa. Read on to learn about his experience during and after the Corps.

What kind of work did you do when you were in the Corps?

We spent our fair share of time backpack spraying garlic mustard and multiflora rose. I also became proficient with a number of power tools, and got to try my hand at controlled burns.

Were there any particularly memorable or challenging experiences?

We were removing invasive woody plants from a prairie in Kansas when I decided to tackle a particularly large eastern red cedar my teammate had walked past. I make my notch, and I’m halfway through my back cut when the aforementioned teammate starts waving wildly at me, and shouting something I couldn’t hear- I assumed we were leaving or something, so I finished the cut. Suddenly I was surrounded by dozens of insects, which I thought was odd, as I started to buck up the tree. Slowly it dawned on me, that these insects were in fact wasps, and that maybe that’s why my teammate was waving at me. Wasps must smell fear though, because they didn’t sting my oblivious self.

What was the most personally meaningful part of the experience?

The Conservation Corps actually let me work with organizations I have interest in. It exists to connect you with these potential employers, and build interest in the field. I think that’s a really excellent idea.

How did your experience shape your career/life?

I work with teams in the military, just like I did here and I think I owe no small part of my success to having practice in the Conservation Corps. Same organization, different mission.

What advice would you offer to a current AmeriCorps member serving in Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa?

Make the best of it, make connections. Think about what parts you liked, and what you need to do in order to work towards a career involving that.

What did you do immediately after your time in the Corps?

I went hiking in Glacier National Park and Canada for a few months.

What is your current position?

I’m a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps.

What kind of work do you do?

We do a lot of training, both foreign and domestic. I spend time working with a team, not unlike the Conservation Corps.

Are there any other experiences or stories from your time in the Corps?

I got to spend a month in Lousiana doing disaster relief, and I thought that was a stellar experience. Everybody with a good heart wants to do something like that, but it’s hard to do so logistically without an organization like the Conservation Corps.