Nine soldiers graduate Colorado SMART Heroes program, gain skills

Nine active-duty members of the U.S. Army joined the SMART Heroes alumni, an elite club of service men and women, during graduation ceremonies July 21 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 9’s training center, 1420 Quail Lake Loop in Colorado Springs.

Each of these graduates completed a seven-week course at the center to earn the equivalent of their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours), paving the way for a rewarding career as they rejoin civilian life.

Graduates included Spc. Alan Barela, Spc. Brayan Canon, Staff Sgt. Devin Holt, Spc. Ehler Htoo, Sgt. Nathan Londre, Staff Sgt. Trey Pettijohn, Spc. Cleevens Point, Spc. Ian Taggart and Staff Sgt. Alexander Winters.

Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers 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.

More than 500 service members and/or veterans have graduated from the SMART Heroes program.

Featured speakers during the ceremony included Michael Coleman, SMART general president; Darrell Roberts, assistant to the general president, SMART; Jason Benson, SMART director of organizing; Nathan Cooper, executive director for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA); Jon Alvino, Sheet Metal Workers Local 9 business manager; Dave Sanford, U.S. Engineering; and Greg Daniels, SMART Heroes instructor.

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, SMART Heroes provides sheet metal industry training through an accelerated seven-week program for active-duty U.S. military men and women and recent veterans who plan to enter civilian life within the year, assisting with their successful transition to the civilian workforce and a satisfying, lifelong career in the sheet metal industry. The second location in Colorado Springs began offering the same training in August 2019.