Dodoma, Tanzania (TFC) – Meet Kinessa Johnson. She spent more than four years on active duty and she’s a veteran of the war in Afghanistan; but now, she’s on a new battlefield and fighting a new enemy. She’s an anti-poaching advisor with Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW).
VETPAW was founded by Ryan Tate after his service with the Marines. He decided to take his experience to the frontlines of the war against animal poachers, and put it to work helping to both protect keystone animals in Africa and assist the rangers that fight the never-ending battle against poachers. The organization allows other veterans, like Kinessa, to put their skills to use in service of the greater good. Tate said:
“Learning about the brutality of the poaching crisis and the rangers who are dying protecting wildlife, hit me harder than anything I’d ever seen—and I’ve seen some crazy stuff. I realized I have the skills necessary to help save animals and the people who risk their lives daily.”
Kinessa’s boots hit the ground four days ago in Tanzania. There has reportedly already been a noticeable decline in poaching activity simply because of the perceived capability of her and the other veterans serving with VETPAW.
You can get updates from their exploits in Africa by following the social media accounts of Kinessa and her comrade Oz Medic. 16 hours ago, Oz posted a foreboding image of a Chinese-manufactured AK resting between his legs during a car ride. There is probably some poetic justice in a Chinese made weapon being using against the poachers, since China is the primary destination for poached ivory. The image was posted under the US Army Special Forces motto of “De Oppresso Liber.” Oz is indeed still helping to “free the oppressed.” The profits from ivory poaching are often used to fund local warlords and terrorism in the region. The money generated from poaching funds oppression all over the continent.
For too long, park rangers working to turn the tide against poachers were undertrained, underpaid, and outgunned. The primary mission of Special Forces soldiers is to act as “force multipliers” and train indigenous soldiers how to fight. It’s certain Oz’s contributions to the training of the park rangers will be long-lasting.
Eventually the team will set up a Quick Reaction Force of local personnel that can respond quickly to illegal animal poaching.
For veterans that are tired of being underemployed or unemployed, and are interested in connecting, volunteering, or serving as advisors, do not send your DD-214s via Facebook to Kinessa. Apply online at this link. This opportunity is open to foreign military as well. There are also opportunities to help for civilians.
If you want to donate monetarily, go here.