ORISE Program Offers Real-World Experience, Opens the Door for Environmental Career
As a military spouse who has lived at three different military installations in four years, the ORISE program made all the difference for former ORISE participant Leigh Ann Walker.
Walker first applied to ORISE and began her internship at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii , in June 2001 as a postgraduate environmental management intern under the U.S. Army Environmental Center (USAEC) Program. Her first assignment on an environmental science project included the evaluation of asbestos and lead-based paint data in building structures and materials.
The ORISE program quickly peaked Walker ’s interests as she desired to gain practical and educational knowledge in asbestos and lead assessment. This opportunity would also allow her to help design and implement strategies to improve compliance and strengthen the environment. She hoped to reinforce her research techniques and recognize new research methods.
As a military spouse, Walker felt she had the ability to view Army land from two perspectives—as a valuable resource for Army training, as well as an important part of the ecosystem that should be preserved and managed properly.
In Feb. 2003, Walker ’s husband was transferred for training to Fort Benning, Ga. ORISE was able to reactivate her appointment with the Lead/Asbestos Group at Fort Benning. Having gained valuable knowledge of both lead and asbestos in Hawaii, she was quick to learn the skills for her new research project.
After only a few weeks, her focus evolved into air quality and pollution prevention assistance, where she would be exposed to many other facets of environmental management, including clean water, clean air, and hazardous waste. In October, a move for the Walker family was once again necessitated by the Army.
ORISE was able to make the military spouse move ‘work’ by a transfer of her appointment to Fort Bragg , N.C. With a passionate desire to be involved in the protection of our natural resources and endangered species, Walker’s new project at Fort Bragg involved erosion and sediment control inspections on construction sites and identifying those sites needing repair, as well as developing a data management system to manage collected data.
In March 2004, her mentor Craig Lantz, requested an extension of her appointment, saying, “Leigh Ann always took initiative to get things done and researched solutions on her own.” She received extensive training at Fort Bragg through training conferences and workshop events, which were essential to her understanding of erosion control techniques and storm water management practices.
“Each military post had something different to offer, and because of my experience with ORISE, I am a very well-rounded environmental professional,” Walker said. “Every time we moved, I had a position lined up before we even arrived at the duty station.”
ORISE participant programs gave her the real-world experience she needed for a successful career. She said, “I enjoyed the ORISE program and certainly would not be here today without it.”
"The ORISE program is providing an excellent opportunity for the Army to develop its workforce of the future. The program gives participants the chance to develop an understanding of the Army's mission, its readiness requirements, and its business challenges," said Colonel Tony R. Francis, Commander of the USAEC. "These learning experiences can pay dividends over the long term for installation sustainability."
"The experience of Leigh Ann Walker is just another example of the flexibility available in the ORISE program, and its focus on supporting the Army's mission. In this case, we were able to take care of our Soldier and his family while supporting the Army's environmental mission."
In June 2004, Walker accepted employment with Dynamic as a Compliance Specialist for the Fort Bragg Environmental Compliance Branch.