The following is a release from the Fort Polk Public Affairs Office by Jean Dubiel, Fort Polk Guardian staff writer:
FORT POLK, La. - Ten students graduated Aug. 17 from the McDermott and Fort Polk industrial electricians program, a 16-week course that teaches Soldiers separating from the Army how to be electricians - but it's not just for Soldiers anymore.
This class included two Family members and a Department of the Army civilian, as well as the first female Soldier and a Soldier from another installation. These were all firsts for the program.
McDermott and Central Louisiana Technical Community College are partnered with Fort Polk's Soldier-For-Life Transition Assistance Program, in coordination with the Army Career Skills Program, to offer classes for in-demand employment skill sets, specifically for pipefitting and industrial electricians, but welding and truck driving courses are planned for the future at Fort Polk. There are more than 150 career skills available at installations throughout the country.
These classes are aimed at Soldiers transitioning out of the Army, but Family members and federal employees are also welcome to participate.
Col. Jarrett A. Thomas II, Fort Polk garrison commander, said the graduation is not only a "big deal" for the graduates and their families, but for the Army as well.
"We care a great deal about our Soldiers, civilians and Family members. They are part of Fort Polk, and the things we do here on a daily basis could not be done without them," said Thomas. "However, they are going to (leave Fort Polk) and go on to become productive citizens in the workforce. We are proud of all they have done."
Thomas said the SFL-TAP is important for Soldiers because it bridges the gap from service to the civilian workforce, and helps cement Fort Polk's reputation as an installation that builds readiness. He also thanked McDermott and CLTCC for their commitment to Fort Polk.
"You recognize the value Soldiers bring to the table and that is a win-win situation for Louisiana, Fort Polk, our Soldiers and companies like yours," he said.
Paul Glover, military program liaison for McDermott, said he has starting dates for each graduate to begin work in their new career. "The students give us the date that they can start, based on their out-processing (schedule)," he said. "We try to get them to start work somewhere between 90-120 days from graduation."
Glover said the program has been available since December of 2016, and this is the fifth class, or "cohort" to graduate the program.
"These classes help Soldiers enhance the training they already have," he said. "When these industries look for workers, they look for people that will be on time and have some leadership ability. The military gives you that. We just give them some additional experience in another (skill set)."
Spc. Nyyana Lamb is the first female Soldier to go through the industrial electricians program. She said she is currently a mechanic in the Army and likes to work with her hands but wanted to learn something different from turning wrenches.
"It was hard for me to get into this program at first because I am a mechanic, and (my unit) didn't want me to leave," she said. "But Mister Glover and the folks with SFL-TAP helped me, and at the end of the day I got in."
Spc. Tyler Whitmore came from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to attend the course and is the first non-Fort Polk Soldier to do so.
"I went through the SFL-TAP at my installation, and there's more than 150 courses you can chose from," he said. "I was interested in this electrician course at Fort Polk, so my unit commander helped me put together a permissive (temporary duty) packet and they sent me down here. They took care of everything."
Whitmore said he liked the hands-on experience of the course. "I enjoyed getting out in the field and touring the worksite and learning about what we were going to really be doing after graduation," he said.
Whitmore will now report back to his home station for out-processing, then begin his civilian life and a new career.
Troy Boudreaux of Fort Polk's SFL-TAP office said anyone interested in attending a career skills course can call 531-1591, or attend the Career Skills Program briefing that is given the first Monday of every month from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at the SFL-TAP, bldg 4275, 7435 California Ave. at the Fort Polk Airfield.
"When you get down to your last six months in the military, think of this program as a way to line yourself up for success after you get out," said Boudreaux.