Eleven active members of the United States military and two veterans graduated as the 24th class of the SMART Heroes program’s Western Washington location Monday, Oct. 4, at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont.

The graduates represented the ranks of the United States Air Force and Army and include Spc. Jeremiah Biggs, Army; Spc. Robert Carlin, Army; Sgt. 1st Class Salvador Castaneda, Army; Daryl Crabtree, Army veteran; Spc. Luis Gomez, Army; Staff Sgt. Matt Kramer, Air Force; Spc. Eric Migneron, Army; Ryan Mumma, Army veteran; Sgt. Sergio Parra, Army; Sgt. Jesus Estrada, Army; Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Strasser, Army; Senior Airman Alexander Tirado, Air Force; and Sgt. Angel Torres, Army.

The program — created by the International Training Institute (ITI), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) — helps participants learn a new skill set, which can lead to a new career once they’re out of the military.

In order to graduate, participants completed a seven-week course to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the more than 140 SMART apprenticeship programs in the United States and be provided direct entry and advanced placement as a second-year sheet metal apprentice, including a high probability of obtaining second-year apprentice wages and benefits.

The training was a big draw for Strasser.

“The ability to work with your hands to build and weld will be a career that is always in demand,” he said. “I have the opportunity to learn a trade, a skill that will make me employable for the rest of my career.”

The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the ITI, the education arm of the unionized air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI, together with SMART and SMACNA, created the program in collaboration with Sheet Metal Workers Local 66SMACNA Western WashingtonWestern Washington Sheet Metal training center and Helmets to Hardhats.

Featured speakers included Mike Harris, ITI program administrator; Lance Deyette, business manager, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66; and Kenny Branson, SMACNA Western Washington.

The first SMART Heroes program was launched in August 2017 in Washington and was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to active duty U.S. military men and women who plan to enter the civilian life within the year, thereby assisting in a successful transition into the civilian workforce. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.

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