A female Army veteran, who served four years as a weapons instructor and mechanic and served a tour in Afghanistan, is now fighting wildlife poachers in East Africa. In November 2014, Kinessa Johnson joined the non-profit group Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW).
While, the female Army veteran is not actually hunting down and fighting poachers, she is playing a critical role in helping park rangers protect and conserve wildlife.
"We work side by side with park rangers and it's truly a learning experience for not only park rangers but also our team," said Johnson. "Our intention is not to harm anyone; we're here to train park rangers so they can track and detain poachers and ultimately prevent poaching."
The organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW) was founded by Marine Corps veteran Ryan Tate. Prior to joining the military, the Marine veteran had two primary passions, and a desire to protect both: his country and animals. Tate decided to protect his country after the attacks on 9/11.
Then, after returning to civilian life and feeling - like many veterans - that his life had no meaning, he decided to start VETPAW.
According to VETPAW's Mission on its website, "The goals of Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW) are to provide meaningful employment to skilled post-9/11 U.S.veterans and conserve critically endangered African species and their communities and ecosystems."
Kinessa Johnson is passionate about what she is doing to protect animals, but she often has to point out that she - and the other military veterans - are not poacher hunters.
"I'm a technical adviser to anti-poaching rangers so I patrol routinely with them and also assist in intelligence operations," she said. "Most of the time anyone that is in a reserve with a weapon is considered a threat and can be shot if rangers feel threatened. Our goal is to prevent trigger pulling through strategic movements and methods of prevention."
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