SMART Heroes celebrates first graduation in Colorado

Three service members graduated during Oct. 7 ceremony

Three members of the United States military graduated as the first class of the SMART Heroes program’s Colorado location Oct. 7 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 9, 1420 Quail Lake Loop in Colorado Springs.

The graduates represent the ranks of the Army and Navy and include Cpl. Will Garcia, Army; Spc. Christopher Valencia, Army; and Petty Officer 2nd Class Damian Ford, a recent Navy veteran.

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 148 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (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.

Dignitaries in attendance at the graduation included Rob Biedermann, director of SMART Capital; Colorado Sen. Pete Lee; Nathan Dills, president, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and president of ACP Sheet Metal; Charles Mulcahy, SMART director of craft services; and Michael J. Webb, director of human resources at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson.

The curriculum for the SMART Heroes program was created by the International Training Institute (ITI), the education arm of the unionized sheet metal, air conditioning and welding industry. The ITI, together with SMART and SMACNA, created the program in collaboration with SMART Local 9 Colorado and its training center, SMACNA Colorado and Helmets to Hardhats.

Launched in August 2017 in Washington, the SMART Heroes program was established to provide free sheet metal industry training to enlisted 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.

For additional information on SMART Heroes, visit or call the International Training Institute at 703-739-7200.