Located in the heart of the Pacific Northwest's Puget Sound region, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) includes approximately 90,000 acres. It supports more than 40,000 service members, plus another 15,000 civilians. It is also home to several extremely rare habitat types and more than 35 imperiled animal species.To help manage this extensive program and transitioning service members, the JBLM Department of Public Works Fish and Wildlife team created the Environmental Restoration Warriors (ERW) program four years ago. Through its use of service member manpower, this program successfully accomplishes environmental objectives which helps preserve JBLM's military missions, while saving the Army hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Over the last four years, 76 service members have participated in the ERW program, supplying the program with more than $1.25 million of volunteer labor.Some natural resources conservation efforts are tangible, but the ERW program is also helping heal minds and bodies."The Fish and Wildlife program here has a history of protecting its rare ecosystems," said David Clouse, natural resources branch chief in the directorate of public works at JBLM. "It now involves the Environmental Restoration Warriors--who are injured and retiring active-duty personnel--in ecological restoration, conservation, and science. For example, the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly is listed under the Endangered Species Act, and the only extant population in Washington is on JBLM.ERW interns work with state and federal biologists assisting with surveys, helping release caterpillars, and other tasks. The Mazama pocket gopher and streaked horned-lark are federally threatened species. Interns perform gopher surveys, undertake lark habitat projects, and help with prescribed burns for habitat restoration, all of which helps JBLM meet environmental management objectives and ensure compliance with state and federal requirements.The Puget lowland prairies are one of the most imperiled habitats in North America. ERW helps with habitat improvement projects--brush cutting in wetlands for rare frogs; clearing salmon spawning channels; spreading seed across freshly burned prairies; constructing nest boxes for birds and bats; and many other activities to preserve native plant communities. Environmental Restoration Warriors assist with JBLM forestry initiatives, too.Surplus timber sales generate more than $1.2 million a year. Of this revenue, more than $700,000 supports forest management on other installations; while approximately $500,000 goes to neighboring counties to support schools and roads.Conservation and restoration activities such as these help combat veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, since these tasks can be conducive to inner reflection in ways other job training programs are not. Additionally, some ERW participants also help with non-military group restoration projects around the base's perimeter. For example, they helped Nisqually Tribe and Nisqually Land Trust restore a critical salmon-bearing tributary in a shared watershed.ERW interns also work with professional biologists and students from local colleges. These interactions provide exposure to various environmental career paths and unique learning relationships. Almost half of the participants enroll in college--many study environmental science--and they often work in environmental-related careers.The ERW program reflects great credit upon the leadership within the JBLM Department of Public Works. It helps natural resource managers, transitioning veterans, academic institutions, Native American tribes, and countless others. This program ensures regulatory compliance saves money, putting extra hands to work and restoring habitat for rare species, all while helping veterans transition into meaningful civilian careers.After four years on JBLM, the ERW program may expand to other installations. One program coordinator is connecting with other natural resource managers to explore the possibility of future partnerships.The team who built the Environmental Restoration Warriors program say the real heroes are the interns--women and men who put their lives on the line to protect our country and then channeled their selfless dedication into this. They spend all day in every kind of weather, helping the Army meet its environmental objectives, and they are recognized and appreciated at the highest levels.