Airman carves out resiliency time with chainsaw art

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sarah Brice
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

Outdoorsman. That’s what one Airman considers himself. For more than half his life he spent his free time hunting, fishing and trapping.


When Tech. Sgt. Scott Herbert, 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron air advisor, moved to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, three years ago, all his hobbies came to a crashing halt. The laws for hunting and trapping in this state were much more restrictive than his upbringing in Alaska and his previous assignments.


For his first year on station, he stayed indoors and focused on finishing his master’s degree and helping out around the house, but he said he was still seeking an outlet to keep his hands and mind busy.


“I needed something to do so my wife would be able to stay sane and I could stay sane,” said Herbert.


One day, Herbert was using a chainsaw to cut wood for his fireplace when he had an idea to carve a bear out of the remaining log. He had no prior artistic experience, so it didn't work out so well.


"It looked like an inbred type of a gummy bear," said Herbert. "It was almost scary."


Herbert chopped up and burned his first project, but the spark of creativity was already lit.


Herbert has since improved his skills by carving logs into owls, eagles, rams, snails, trees, pumpkins, fish and bears. The process of creating each item can be lengthy and logs require months of preparation before work can begin.


“The wood is still kind of a living thing,” Herbert said, describing how it expands when it’s wet and contracts and cracks when fully dry.


After the drying process, Herbert spends time researching what he wants to make out of each piece of wood. He sketches his design, cuts details, and finishes up by sanding, burning, brushing and painting the design with professional-grade sealant.


“It's fun to see him be so creative,” said Jessica, Herbert's wife. “I love it. I think it's beautiful.”


As a married man with four kids who juggles work, family, and church commitments, he finds relief when he’s working on his projects.


“It's also my 'woosah,' my way to focus on something that doesn't pertain to anything else that life has to throw at (me),” said Herbert. “Everyone needs some avenue to get away, and this is mine.”


When possible, he invites his four children to help him with the blow-torching and painting. His 4-year-old daughter took a liking to his snail sculptures, painting it herself and naming it Gary after the pet snail from the TV show “Spongebob.”


“We each have our own little job with his work,” said Jessica. “The kids are pretty entertained. I'll just go outside and sit by him and read a book.”


When Herbert isn’t at home being creative and spending time with his family, he can be found wandering the halls of the 818th MSAS during the work week. In the unit, he is responsible for keeping the 818th MSAS Airmen trained and ready to deploy and also travels around Africa teaching partner nations military firefighter operations.


At the end of the work day, Herbert returns to his home, thinking of what creation he can fabricate next to channel the inner outdoorsman while staying a resilient Airman ready to support the mission and his family.


“I get distracted and pulled away from carving quite often for more important purposes: family,” said Herbert.