With their eyes on the future, summer rangers in the Three Rivers Region of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ Fort Worth District came together at the start of summer for a regional training program. The program is designed to start them on a path that could see them becoming full-fledged rangers or maybe something even greater. From rangers and lake managers to the deputy district engineer for programs and project management, former summer rangers from the region are filling critical roles within the district and elsewhere.
Some of the rangers are just looking for a summer job and some are looking to get experience in their career field. For others, it has been a dream since they were young.
“When I graduated from high school I kind of had in my mind that I wanted to be a ranger,” said Seth Williams, a senior at Texas A&M University. “I was thinking about being a park ranger at Meridian State Park or something like that. I hardly knew anything about the Corps, but I was looking for summer jobs to apply to and saw the Corps job come up. I really wanted to get some ranger experience because that was what I wanted to do in the beginning. Now I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life.”
Madeline Karickhoff was hired as a summer ranger in June 2022 at Whitney Lake. She spent one summer in the program and decided it was the right career for her. Fast forward one year and she is now a natural resource specialist (park ranger) at Georgetown Lake. As a new park ranger, she gives the summer ranger program credit for leading her along her current path.
“I believe the summer ranger program is a great steppingstone,” said Karickhoff. “I began as a summer hire because it allowed me to perform a lot of hands-on tasks while learning the basis for several project programs. The latitude allowed summer hires equipped me with the appropriate amount of material-to-time ratio for efficient learning.”
For many, the next step in the path is to become a lake manager. Josh Brown, the lake manager at Whitney Lake, started his career as a ranger at Navarro Mills Lake. Planning to follow a family tradition in law enforcement, Josh wanted to become a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. After one summer in the program and graduating from Tarleton State University with a degree in Criminal Justice with a Wildlife Management minor Josh instead became a park ranger in 2008.
“I considered my career path before choosing to accept the summer ranger program,” Josh said. “I chose a career with the Corps because I recognized I would have more potential for advancement than if I went in to law enforcement.”
The region’s training reinforces what the summer rangers have been taught at the lake level. However, the region’s training also provides a broader overview of what or who the Corps of Engineers is and how their position fits in to the big picture and where they could see themselves down the road.
Tim Horn never envisioned himself as the Operations Project Manager for the Three Rivers Region when he served four seasons as a summer ranger from 1987-1990. In fact, after graduating from college he embarked on a teaching career which lasted one year.
“Being a summer ranger introduced me to the Corps of Engineers and the opportunities it provided for a lake-based career in natural resources and recreation management,” Horn said. “It was not only a great summer job, but it also provided experience and a launching point for the career that I have enjoyed over the past 30 plus years.”
Summer rangers gain knowledge in all business lines of the Corps of Engineers. From boots on the ground at the lakes to writing specifications, project development, budgeting, contracting and administration.
“The summer ranger program is a great way to get an overall understanding of a variety of career paths that are available throughout the Corps,” said Kathryn Haferkamp, a Project Coordinator with the district’s Programs and Project Management Division. “I believe the summer ranger program is very important. While I was a summer ranger, I worked with rangers who are currently leaders throughout the district and the Southwestern Division.”
A summer ranger who has reached the pinnacle in upward mobility within the district is Arnold “Rob” Newman. He first donned the green and grey in May of 1994. Since then, he has climbed the proverbial ladder within the district. He’s held multiple leadership roles throughout the district and is now the deputy district engineer and senior civilian with the Fort Worth District.
“Being a summer ranger, or park ranger in general, is probably the best job in the Corps,” said Newman. “You get to be outside, work on the land to make it more valuable for wildlife, and you get to interact with all parts of the recreating public. The district offices are probably full of people that used to be park rangers early on in their career.”
Starting your career as a summer ranger can be a good summer job for some. But for others, it’s just the start of a lifetime journey. How far up the ladder do you want to climb?
For information about Corps of Engineers jobs in the Fort Worth area visit https://www.usajobs.gov/Search/Results?/I=Fort%20Worth%20Texas&k=usace%20fort%20worth%20district&p=1