Hal Carey with his wife, Meghan, and newborn son Jackson at this year’s Jazz in the Pines Festival. Photo by Cid Castillo
San Jacinto District Forester Hal Carey is leaving the Hill and the Forest Service to take up a new foreign mission with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in an infrastructure-building role he has long been preparing to undertake.

Carey will be an agricultural development officer tasked to address food security issues by improving food systems to make them more resilient to natural and political problems. He’ll deal in issues of crop yields, food distribution, irrigation systems and crop insurance, something not generally available in developing countries. The first year-long trouble spot assignment is a non-family tour of duty, but Carey will get a number of home visits during his one-year deployment.

A USAID career offers Carey a permanent position and represents, he said, a chance to build economic security for his family. He will be entering USAID as a mid-level officer with solid benefits, a promising career path and a chance to help people in need who have fundamental problems with food supply, water quality and infrastructure development. “It’s going to be an interesting path,” he said.

USAID provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance in developing or shattered countries around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the U.S. It is one linchpin in a trio of U.S. foreign policy goals — defense, diplomacy and development. As stated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, “The economic collapse of developing countries would be disastrous to our national security, harmful to our comparative prosperity, and offensive to our conscience … For widespread poverty and chaos lead to a collapse of existing political and social structures which would inevitably invite the advance of totalitarianism into every weak and unstable area.” It is the widespread poverty and broken or nonexistent infrastructure that USAID seeks to address with its assistance programs in an effort to increase stability in threatened countries and regions.

Carey has been building qualifications for a USAID career for some time. The application process took over 15 months and required Carey to obtain medical and security clearances. USAID requires four key qualification areas, all of which Carey acquired: a graduate degree in an area of use to USAID missions (Carey has a master’s degree in forestry from the University of Montana and two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Alabama); a foreign language (two Peace Corps tours of duty equipped Carey with fully useable Mandarin, spoken in China, and Ewe, the language spoken in Ghana, Africa); four years of international work experience (two two-year tours with the Peace Corps in China and Ghana); and seven years of practical experience (four years in Idyllwild with the National Resources Conservation Services (NCRCS) emergency watershed protection program dealing with the aftermath of the bark beetle tree kill-off, and three years as district forester for the San Jacinto Forest). Carey’s NRCS work was project-based and when the project ended so did the employment. The Forest Service has, in belt-tightening measures, cut back positions, including the district ranger position Carey has held.

After five weeks of orientation and training in Washington, D.C., which focuses largely on USAID’s mission and structure, Carey will learn which of four “critical need” countries will be his home for the next year. It will either be Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. After the first year in the critical need assignment, Carey will receive his first four-year field assignment in a developing county to which he will be able to take his wife and young son. “I’d rather get the hardship post out of the way now,” said Carey. In the four-year postings, USAID provides housing, and schools for dependents. “We’ll be able to keep the Idyllwild house,” he said. “It’s all about setting my family up for the best that I can provide,” he said.