Stewart-Hunter forester spends lifetime in the woods
Charlie Moore, heavy equipment operator with the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Forestry Branch of the Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works, poses with an older model bulldozer, much like the one he operated when he began working with the Forestry Branch in 1966.

FORT STEWART, Ga. - "I call him 'Mr. Forestry,'" said Tony Rubine, fire management supervisor with the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Forestry Branch of the Environmental Division of the Directorate of Public Works, of Charlie Moore, a heavy equipment operator who's worked for the Department of Defense for nearly 50 years. "Charlie's been doing this forever, and he's still the most dependable worker I know. It's not uncommon for him to come in at 1 o'clock in the morning on a weekend to help put out a range fire. He's somebody everybody can depend on."

Moore, who was born in 1936 near the Cypress Slash Community of what is now Fort Stewart's Gate 3, began his service with DoD as a security guard in the Air Force from 1955 to 1959. He said he took a temporary position in 1966 as an equipment operator and warehouseman, which led to a permanent position and eventually a position as a heavy equipment operator with the Forestry Branch.

"All my training was (on the job) training," he said, regarding the tractors, bulldozers and other heavy equipment he's operated almost every day for nearly 45 years. "Back when I started, the dozers didn't have all the new safety features."

The driver's seat of modern bulldozers used by heavy equipment operators to fight wildfires are enclosed in thick glass and framed in protective steel to prevent limbs and trees from falling on the operator. They're also air conditioned to limit the operator's exposure to smoke. Moore said when he began working with the Forestry Branch, his most common safety feature was common sense.

"You don't want to get too close to the fire," he chuckled. "And I always try to stay as far away from the fire as I can."

"You have to really know your tractor, your piece of equipment - what it can and cannot do," Caroline Fore, lead fire tower operator, interjected. "Charlie has helped us put out some really big wildfires here at Stewart, including the one at Red Cloud Range back in 2002 and another one at Hotel Range in 2007."

She described these fires as "crown" fires in which the tree canopies caught fire, thus allowing the fire to spread from tree to tree, even jumping major roads. Moore and other heavy equipment operators were tasked with cutting firebreaks ahead of the fire. Although he has fought numerous wildfires over the years, he remembers these two most because it took several days to get either fire under control.

Moore said most of the work he does isn't nearly as exciting as fighting fires, such as grading roads, clearing logging decks or cutting logging trails in preparation for a prescribed timber harvest. Spending his days in the forest has its benefits too.

Almost every day, he sees wild turkeys, whitetail deer, feral hogs and bald eagles. He smiled but commented little on seeing alligators and "lots" of snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouth moccasins, adding that at certain times of the year, he prefers to stay on his dozer.

Moore's career with the Forestry Branch is not the only part of his life with longevity. He's been married for 47 years, has one daughter and two granddaughters.

"I'm not much of a fisherman, and I don't go hunting anymore," he admitted as he thought about his hobbies. "I enjoy gardening - butter beans, peas, corn, squash, tomatoes and melons."

Somehow, it's not surprising that a man who has spent most of his life outdoors would find an outdoor activity like gardening to be his favorite way to relax and still remain productive. Moore said he hasn't given much thought about what he will do when he decides to retire. At 74, he said he knows he will probably retire soon, but he's not making any immediate plans to do so.

Page last updated Thu September 9th, 2010 at 00:00