From Military Service to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — Honoring FAC Veterans

As we approach Veterans Day on November 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recognizing our military veterans. In the Pacific Region, our workforce is distinguished with 14% of colleagues who have previously served in the armed forces and now serve the public through our conservation mission. These veterans among us might not call attention to their past military service, but some have agreed to share their experiences.

Get to know two of our veterans in the Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program: Jeremy Mail and Mark Ahrens.

Jeremy Mail, Fish Culturist, Winthrop National Fish Hatchery, Washington

U.S. Army (1995–2002)

Man standing in front of a large military vehicle holding a helmet and rifle
USFWS Photo: Jeremy Mail

Jeremy Mail served in the U.S. Army from 1995 to 2002 and spent much of that time overseas in Germany.

Jeremy began his career with the Service in 2006 at the Quinault National Fish Hatchery in Washington. He later transferred to Winthrop NFH where he has been working as a Fish Culturist since 2010.

Man standing next to a large sign for Winthrop National Fish Hatchery
USFWS Photo: Jeremy Mail

Mark Ahrens, Facility and Asset Management Coordinator, Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program, Pacific Region

U.S. Navy (1987–1992) Submarine Service, Torpedoman Petty Officer 2nd Class

On the left, a man outdoors wearing a hat. On the right, a portrait of a young man wearing a Navy Uniform.
USFWS Photos: Mark Ahrens

I grew up in Seattle, Washington. After high school, I started college at the University of Washington right away, aiming for studying marine biology. But working full time along with going to school full time was a tough mix; after that first year, my heart wasn’t in it. So, I considered joining the Navy, and in October of 1987, I signed up and off I went.

Prior to the Navy, I was an outdoors enthusiast and aquatically oriented. Into camping, fishing, and eventually scuba diving, I became a mechanic/tech in a Seattle dive-store chain. So, Navy submarines were a perfect fit for me.

In the Navy, I got to live in several areas of the U.S. — Orlando, Florida; Groton, Connecticut; San Diego, California; and see some of the world — Japan, Australia, Puerto Rico, Panama, Guam, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and more.

Three people in Navy uniforms standing on a dock near water
Person inside a submarine sitting on military equipment
USFWS Photos: Mark Ahrens

I left the Navy in 1992 and returned to the University of Washington, majoring in fisheries biology and minoring in American Indian studies. The GI Bill from those Navy years helped me pay for school while also working part time.

In 1995, I applied for a co-op education internship program with the Service and was hired for a summer internship. I spent summers working at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery in Idaho and what is now the Mid-Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Washington.

The same month I graduated, I married my wife, Kirsten, who was of course along for the ride over the ensuing 25 years, spending many of those years living together in hatchery housing. We just had our 25th anniversary, so she and our two kids are definitely a part of the Service family as well.

I was converted to full-time in 1997 as a GS-5 Fish Biologist. Over the years, I’ve worked at several facilities around the Pacific Region:

· Warm Springs NFH (1997–1999)

· Winthrop NFH (1999–2003)

· Spring Creek NFH (2003–2015)

I’ve been with the Pacific Region’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program now since 2015, initially as Chief of Fisheries and now the Facility and Asset Management Coordinator. It’s been a challenging, fun, and rewarding journey so far!

Four people standing in front of a beach with water and hillsides in the background
Family photo at Rock Creek Beach, Mosier Oregon. USFWS Photo: Mark Ahrens

Thank you, veterans, for your service to our country and your continued dedication in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

See more tributes to the veterans of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service here.

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Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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