Continue to Grow and Serve

Credit: Kaylin Colby

Evolve Your Leadership & Military Experience

You’ve dedicated your life to service. A NOLS course can honor your experience and create opportunities to take your skills to new heights.

Born in part from our founder Paul Petzoldt’s service in the 10th Mountain Division in World War II, today NOLS is a leading source of expedition-based leadership training and wilderness medicine certifications and has been serving military members for decades.

With NOLS, service members will find course options for every phase in their career, from ROTC and officer candidates to active duty members to veterans. We are committed to offering experiences that complement and enhance your training—and your life.


Explore remote wilderness areas around the world, structured around NOLS’ respected leadership curriculum.

Wilderness Medicine Courses

Learn to recognize, treat, and prevent emergencies in the outdoors and earn valued certifications.

Veterans & transitioning Service Members

You’ve already proven you’re a leader. Now, apply your skills to new challenges.

You can use your veterans benefits for a Wyoming-based expedition or wilderness medicine training, EMT training, and career-focused outdoor educator courses. These offerings are gateways to new careers, exploration, and personal growth.

Wilderness medicine certifications are credentials employers value and will prepare you to respond to emergencies in remote, resource-limited environments.

Expeditions are an opportunity to explore some of the most remote wilderness in the Lower 48 while developing interpersonal and outdoor skills. You’ll finish your course with a certification that employers respect, a sense of community, and the skills to take on new adventures.

Active Duty & Reserve

Enhance your skill set as you serve. Many NOLS expeditions and wilderness medicine trainings fit into time on leave, and can be opportunities to apply your skills in new areas.

A 1-2 week expedition will build a foundation in technical outdoor skills that will prepare you for adventures in the wild. A wilderness medicine certification will both prepare you to respond to unexpected emergencies in the outdoors, and set you up for a wide range of jobs in the outdoors.

rotc/Service Academies

NOLS has programs designed for you. Since 2004, over 2,000 midshipmen and cadets have joined NOLS on Service Academy Leadership Expeditions. Our 22 to 26 day Service Academy expeditions are structured to give you opportunities to test the leadership concepts you’ve learned in your officer training.

Living in a close-knit group in the wilderness, you’ll focus on key lessons of self-reliance, team dynamics, and the value of following as well as leading. You will put these skills into practice in an environment that has real consequences. When you finish your course, you’ll be ready to thrive in adversity and take on a variety of leadership roles in any group.

Courses for ROTC/Service Academies:


NOLS creates custom expeditions for service academies & ROTC programs.

fieldnote-arrow1-rock Learn more about opportunities with NOLS

Custom Training for military Units

As a GSA Authorized Federal Supplier, NOLS offers customized expedition and wilderness medicine training to military groups that include service academy students, test pilots, and the special operations community.

Wilderness medicine courses can be tailored to your group’s priorities and take place at a location of your choice. With an emphasis on decision-making and being self-sufficient in resource-limited environments, wilderness medicine training can complement and enhance a team’s unit and knowledge.

Expeditions center on improving interpersonal skills, practicing leadership in a remote, resource-limited environment, and learning alternate strategies for risk management and group decision-making. While meeting the challenges of living in the wilderness, from river crossings to paddling remote shorelines to summiting high peaks, participants learn both the personal and group skills to be effective leaders. Participants complete their courses prepared to be leaders and to serve their teams.

NOLS & The Military

NOLS founder Paul Petzoldt honed his educational philosophy while serving with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. While stationed at Camp Hale, he distinguished himself as a talented skiing and climbing instructor. Private First Class Petzoldt quickly became Second Lieutenant Petzoldt, and was instrumental in developing rapid, large-scale cliff casualty evacuation procedures.

Paul Petzoldt in the 10th Mountain Division

Since Petzoldt’s time, NOLS has connected many active and former service members with careers and new opportunities. For some, such as Army Special Forces veteran and NOLS instructor Joe Kim, NOLS offered a pathway to a second career in the outdoors. Others have found the tight-knit communities our courses provide ideal settings to aid transition to civilian life.   

We are proud that current and former service members have chosen to become NOLS alumni and instructors, and hope to add many more in the future.

NOLS Leadership Curriculum

The curriculum introduced by Petzoldt and refined through decades of research and experience has proven invaluable to the service academies, teams, and individuals who have sought out a NOLS education.

Our curriculum focuses on genuine opportunities for making hands-on decisions in resource-limited, remote environments.


Learn more about using your VA benefits, our service academy expeditions, or creating a customized training for your unit.

Fill out this form to connect with our military advisor. 



How is NOLS different than other veterans’ outdoor programs?

NOLS courses in Wyoming are eligible for VA benefits, and across the school you have access to a variety of courses and skill areas.

NOLS offers a structured leadership curriculum and respected wilderness medicine training that can enhance your resume when applying to school and jobs.

Most courses have a blend of veteran and non-veteran students, meaning you’ll be taking your course with a group of people who have varied life experiences.

Will a NOLS course help me with future employment opportunities?

Yes! NOLS diplomas and certifications are respected across the outdoor industry and outside of it, too.

In addition, graduating from a NOLS course will give you access to the NOLS Jobsnetwork, an online database of employers all over the country looking for employees with the skills NOLS courses provide. See further information on NOLS alumni benefits.

Are there other veterans on NOLS courses?

Yes! Many of our courses that are eligible for VA Benefits will have a blend of both veteran and non-veteran students.

Can I sign up with a friend?

Yes! We can place you on the same course if there are sufficient spaces available. If you have a large enough group, you may inquire with NOLS Custom Education about designing a course.

How do my VA Benefits work with NOLS courses?

Find detailed information on using your VA benefits here.

Am I eligible for additional financial aid if I’m already using VA Benefits?

Yes! Read about other financial aid and scholarship options here.

Is there any out-of-pocket cost not covered by my VA Benefits?

Yes, depending on whether your course is classroom-based or expedition-based. Read more specific information on the costs covered by VA Benefits here.

Is NOLS the same as wilderness therapy?

While there are undeniable health benefits to spending time in the wilderness, NOLS is not a good fit for those seeking wilderness therapy programs.


"My NOLS semester was a great opportunity to translate my leadership skill set as a veteran for the wilderness of the civilian world"

Bryan Sarg, Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester 2017, USMC Helicopter Pilot

Blog Posts


Why I Used the GI Bill for NOLS

We spoke with Navy veteran and graduate, Kevin Wilson, to learn about how and why he used his veteran ... Read More

Students jump in the Alaskan mountains.

USNA Midshipman Turned NOLS Instructor

It was the second week of our course, and our hiking group of US Naval Academy Midshipmen sat on the... Read More


History Comes Alive for the 10th Mountain Division

While many folks at NOLS know Paul Petzoldt as the founder of the outdoor school, he was a ripe 57 ... Read More