What Can I Expect?
Enrolling in a term of service with MCC is a big committment! For that reason, we've compiled an overview of what you can expect while serving with MCC so you have a clear idea of the adventure that's ahead of you.
Although there is no way to fully prepare someone for a season with MCC, to offer a start, below are the top health and safety topics to be aware of. Remember this is a service experience, not a typical 9-to-5 job.
- MCC Standards & Policies
Participants must know, follow and support MCC policies & procedures which have been established for the safety and well-being of all. You will be expected to wear protective equipment (think long-sleeves, tall boots, and heavy Kevlar chaps over your work pants in order to run a chainsaw in the middle of summer), refrain from solo hiking when in remote areas, and observe a strict drug and alcohol policy. Camping out in a crew setting with an organization is much different than camping with friends and there are different rules. Being “in the field” is also similar in structure to the military, however crews are self sufficient, completing all food preparation & clean up, camp set up & chores and maintaining a clean camp.
Everyone working at MCC has the right to work in a drug and alcohol free work environment. Sometimes we have people on our crews who are recovering from drug or alcohol use. Drugs, alcohol and their influences have no place in the MCC work environment, including at camp or when traveling for projects. Respect for yourself and those on your crew is expected.
- Physical Toll
The work MCC performs will vary from crew to crew, region to region, and year to year. Some projects will be physically demanding and offer a clear sense of accomplishment and meaningful contribution. Some projects will not. The care given and the steps taken to ensure a healthy, injury-free season are for more than personal benefit—a significant injury in a remote location requires the rest of your crew to become caregivers and potentially initiate emergency procedures for you, and in the instances of an evacuation or your inability to perform the work, it means they will have to carry your share of the load, figuratively and often literally—the impacts of self-care are much farther reaching than an individual level.
The physical demands include any number of the following, sometimes all of them in one project:
Repetitive Motion—swinging a tool into the ground repeatedly to dig trail tread or using loppers or a hand saw to clear brush from the trail corridor both require the use of muscles which are not necessarily taxed heavily in other life or work situations. The results of this sometimes include muscle sprains or strains, including carpal tunnel injuries.
Heavy Lifting—including the heavy backpack which may be a daily component of the gear you carry, this is one of the most common realities an individual faces. Hauling large-diameter logs off trails, carrying lumber for trail features or fence braces, removing large rocks from trails and hauling around the coolers or bins which contain all the food your crew will need for up to 10 days at a time are all common experiences. Backs and knees take a beating, even when using proper lifting techniques. Some of MCC’s most common injuries occur through underestimating the impact this task makes, and overestimating one’s current physical conditioning.
Extended hiking while carrying weight—Not every project will involve a lot of hiking, which leaves room for certain muscle groups to feel even more strained when called upon for major use. The projects with extended hiking tend to exacerbate preexisting knee, back and foot injuries.
Work at high altitudes—while MCC won’t ask you to summit many 14’ers, it may put you in locations that are much higher above sea level than where many people call home. The thinner air combined with physical activity tends to resurface breathing difficulty for those with a history of asthma. While it can be managed, one must first be aware of the possibility in order to prepare themselves and ensure they have proper medication.
Work in all weather conditions—depending on the location, crews can expect rain, snow or extreme temperature swings every month of the year. Adequate gear and a positive mental attitude are necessities for successful completion. Summer brings wildfires to the state and the smoke is often a lingering factor that can also create difficulty breathing. Even though crews may be certified to serve on wildfires, it is not guaranteed that they will see action on a live fire. Either way, they should expect smoke to roll in at some point during the summer.
Hygiene—Participants may find themselves in remote locations for weeks at a time. There will often be no access to electricity, toilets or showers. Combine those factors with the daily manual labor and it’s easy to see how managing adequate levels of hygiene requires a deliberate effort.
Buy, rent or borrow quality personal equipment. You do not need new gear and can get great deals at thrift stores. Reference the recommended gear list, and recognize that these are areas which pay huge dividends when invested in. It’s easier to stay warm and dry than it is to get warm and dry, and both you and your crew will be happy you did. Break in your boots!
MCC expects participants to manage their personal life (finances, relationships, activities) in such a way that does not bear any negative impact on MCC. Intimate relationships within the chain of command are prohibited. Such experiences may significantly degrade or inhibit one’s ability to supervise effectively; leave no room for the perception of favoritism or exclusion.
Schedules are provided in advance when possible. Crews scheduled to be on a project for 10 days in a row, for example, should recognize that there will also be obligations on the front and back end of that project which will require your time, in addition to those project days: group meal planning and purchasing, tool maintenance, paperwork completion and submission, check-ins with staff, etc. Remember this is a service experience, not a 9-to-5 job. While demanding, it is temporary.
And for more information, please contact the regional office. Ensure you are getting the information you need to have a great season with MCC!