FORT POLK, La. — Leaving the familiar regimen of routines and training in the Army can be a difficult proposition for Soldiers transitioning to civilian life.
Fort Polk’s Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program helps them prepare for that shift. SFL-TAP’s Career Skills Program (CSP) teaches Soldiers new skills that lead to a job at the end of their enlistment.
Two programs are part of the CSP — pipefitting and industrial electrician — both administrated by industry leaders in Louisiana. One of those leaders, CB&I, held a graduation April 20 for five Soldiers and four civilians who are now certified industrial electricians. The ceremony was held at Fort Polk’s Mission Training Center.
The 16-week hands-on training course was held at Central Louisiana Technical Community College.
The graduating class included Capt. William Stewart, Sgt. Jeremy Bilitz, Spc. Erik Lopez, Spc. James Wakefield, Spc. Andrew Ashibuogwu, Doyle Harley, Samuel Higgins, James Oberst and Trevor Perrill.
As guest speaker at the graduation ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Dodson, Fort Polk garrison command sergeant major, congratulated the graduating class.
“Today, you are officially certified electricians. It has taken a lot of hard work and I’m proud of each of you. You are about to transition out and become valuable members of the local community,” he said.
“You are setting the example for others to follow in your footsteps by showing them the key to success is that education and training never end. I wish you all the best in your future careers.” Dodson noted that the Soldiers made a wise decision in their career choice. “According to the Department of Labor, electricians ranked in the top 10 of trade school professions in the last year and have a projected growth rate of 14 percent in the next decade” he said.
Speaking directly to the soon-to-be former Soldiers, Dodson said they have served their nation with distinction and are about to become premiere members of the civilian workforce. “You are second to none in terms of discipline, ethics and high standards,” he said.
The success of the Career Skills Program is dependent on its community partners — CB&I and CLTCC — said Dodson. “Thanks for all you do for Fort Polk, the local community and our Soldiers,” he said. “You recognize the value they bring to the table and the program you offer will impact their lives for years to come. That’s a win-win situation for Fort Polk, our Soldiers and companies like yours.”
Terry Oberst, an Army veteran, decided to take the electrician course because he felt it was a good opportunity.
“I was looking to learn a trade skill and when I found out about this course I thought I could transfer the skills I obtained in the Army — leadership and the ability to adapt and learn quickly — and turn this into a new career,” said Oberst. “It’s a great program that is fast, furious and on par with the quality you find when training with the Army.”
Spc. Erik Lopez, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said he was proud to graduate as a new industrial electrician. “The course guarantees me a job once I leave the Army. That’s important because it allows me to provide for my Family,” he said.
The material (in the industrial electrician program) was interesting and fun to learn, said Lopez. “Overall, it’s a wonderful course and a fantastic opportunity for Soldiers,” he said.
Lopez said he was excited about transitioning out of the Army and into a new job as an electrician.
“Once I start, I’m looking forward to participating in hands-on projects and incorporating what I’ve learned from the class. I feel like the more experience I get, I’ll continue to grow and get better. The skills I’ve acquired will expand and open up a lot of possibilities for my future and the career fields I can go into,” he said.