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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

An Officer and a Forester

A decorated soldier returns to his post with the BLM to present an award of his own.

story by Ariel Hiller


Army Reserve Major James Mahaffy was thrilled to return to the United States.

Following his successful and safe deployment to Iraq, he had many reasons to celebrate. The warm embrace of his family. A grateful nation's homecoming. And, for more than a year and a half, a new job with the BLM awaiting his arrival.

Eighteen months prior, the BLM hired James as a forester in the Roseburg District in southwest Oregon. At the time, both the BLM and James knew he'd soon be sent to the Middle East. But while such circumstances may have troubled other new hires, the BLM quickly allayed any of James' concerns by supporting both his new position as well as his commitment to military service.

And so it was that, after he returned to an American chorus of gratitude for his dedicated service, James found he was far more interested in sharing his own appreciation and accolades for the BLM's commitment to soldiers like him. Enter the Patriot Award.

The Patriot Award is a program from The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. This award develops and promotes a culture in which American employers champion the military service of their employees. Regarding his own experience Major Mahaffy says, "The BLM and my supervisor are incredibly accommodating regarding my monthly Reservist Drills and the agency has also indicated support for upcoming training missions and future deployments. The sacrifice this organization has made and will continue to make needs to be recognized."

An Officer and a Forester
photo by Ariel Hiller

Thus James was scarcely back at work when he submitted the BLM and his manager, Al James, for the Patriot Award. And, much to his delight, the BLM and Al were soon recognized.

As the BLM and his supervisor received the award, James explained how he initially became interested in forestry. He mentioned his Uncle Bob who lived near the dairy farm in Coos Bay where James grew up. "Dairy farmers are interested in what grows down low and feeds cows. We kind of ignored the trees." But Uncle Bob took James out to the woods to instill in him a deep respect for trees and nature. James describes his uncle as a unique character and progressive forester who would stage horse logging demonstrations and create snags for wildlife habitat with high powered rifles - all the while quoting Plato and Aristotle. A true renaissance forester.

Given James' own diverse interests which include his passionate commitment to military service, it seems Uncle Bob isn't the only renaissance forester in the family. And with the support of the BLM and its managers like Al James, it looks like Major Mahaffy will be able to follow his passions well into the future.


Learn more about the BLM and Veterans online.