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Opening a SMART door

Program eases transition to civilian jobs

Photo credit: International Training Institute

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Photo: From left, Joseph Sellers, Jr.; Richard Quintana, HSC, 7th Infantry Division; Trey Freitag, U.S. Navy; William Castillo, U.S. Army; Juan C. Perez, U.S. Army; Joshua Buckley, U.S. Army; Barry Barker, U.S. Army; Ethan Eastling, U.S. Air Force; Ryan Arce, U.S. Army; Joseph Lansdell, president, SMACNA National. Photo credit: International Training Institute

The SMART Heroes Program is a smart step into the future for eight soon-to-be Army veterans.

In the inaugural ceremony held adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord at the Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC (Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee) DuPont Training Center, Ethan Eastling, Barry Barker, Richard Quintana, William Castillo, Ryan Arce, Joshua Buckley, Juan Perez and Trey Freitag opened the door to well paying careers.

"The program is designed to help in the transition from military service to civilian employment," an Imagine Communications spokesperson wrote in an email.

The International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association, (SNACNA) in conjunction with SMART Local 66, SMACNA Western Washington, Western Washington Sheet Metal JATC and Helmets to Hardhats, established the SMART Heroes program.

"Begun this past August, the program provides free sheet metal industry training to enlisted service men and women planning on transitioning to civilian life within the year," continued the spokesperson.

The sheet metal industry is in need of skilled workers to fill job openings in industrial/welding, architectural, testing, adjusting and balance, and detailing.

"Military veterans have the qualities we look for in candidates for our apprenticeship programs," explained James Page, administrator for the International Training Institute (ITI) for the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry.

The ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in sheet metal heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, service and testing, and adjusting and balancing industries throughout the United States and Canada.

The McChord Field Education & Training Center provided support to the program by helping to identify and screen potential candidates.

"Their skills acquired during their time of service can easily be applied on the work site, and it is our honor to assist these U.S. heroes as they transition to civilian life," continued Page.

With the success of Western Washington's SMART Heroes program, the program's creators intend to promote SMART Heroes program partnerships with military bases throughout the country.

Tuesday's eight graduates completed a seven-week course to receive the equivalent of their first-year of sheet metal apprentice training of 224 hours.

Upon their discharge from the Army, they may choose to enter any of the 150-plus SMART apprenticeship programs in the country and have the opportunity for entry and placement as second-year sheet metal apprentices.

"They have a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits," explained the spokesperson.

For more information about the SMART Heroes Program, visit; for more information about ITI, visit

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