Sixth anniversary of SMART Heroes program marked with graduation of 36th class

Eleven active-duty members and veterans of the U.S. Army and Air Force graduated from the SMART Heroes program at the Western Washington location Monday, Sept. 18 at 2725 Williamson Place, in DuPont. This graduation marked the 36th class and sixth anniversary of the program.

Graduates of this class included Spc. Benjamin Boggs, Army veteran; Sgt. Christian Carlos, Army; Staff Sgt. Gage Gunderson, Air Force veteran; Spc. Daniel Hinojosa, Army; Sgt. Christopher Ito-Marrone, Army; Sgt. Konlon Kilroy, Army; Spc. Rudy Maneja, Army; Sgt. Edgar Owens, Army; Pfc. Cooper Phillips, Army; Sgt. Shawn Robinson, Army; and Sgt. Paul Wharton, 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 civilian career once they’re discharged from the military.

In order to graduate, participants completed the seven-week course, equivalent to their first-year sheet metal apprentice training (224 hours). Upon discharge from service, these graduates may choose to enter any of the 148 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.

More than 500 service members and/or veterans have graduated from the SMART Heroes program since its inception in 2017.

Featured speakers during the graduation included Josh Moore, ITI field representative and SMART Heroes specialist, and Darrell Roberts, assistant to the SMART general president and military veteran.

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, developed the program in collaboration with Sheet Metal Workers Local 66, SMACNA Western Washington, and Western Washington Sheet Metal training center.

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 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.