Fighting the wildfires plaguing the western U.S. has been a joint effort between federal and local officials as well as first responders and servicemembers. New Mexico plans to take things to the next level for next summer, as the state's governor Susana Martinez recently asked for increased funding to hire hundreds of veterans as firefighters, according to The Associated Press.
This isn't the first time New Mexico has reached out to former troops to help fight fires. Earlier this year, about 40 veterans signed on to help with approximately 250 seasonal firefighters to battle the wildfires, which typically spike during the hot summer months. The trial program was largely successful, so Martinez felt it was time to make it a staple of the state's response, the AP reports. Vets who have participated have reported a positive experience.
"I kind of joined this program not knowing really what it was all about," Iraq veteran Brian Philips told NBC affiliate KOB. "After the first fire, which was the Piedra fire up in the Sandias, I just fell in love with it right away. It's a really good program. We have great crew bosses that we trust one hundred percent."
Similar programs around the country may help bring down the unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans. According to recent Labor Department statistics, the rate rose during July to 7.7 percent.