FORT CARSON, Colo. -- For nine Soldiers leaving the Army, their career futures are looking bright. The Soldiers are the first at Fort Carson to benefit from the Veterans in Piping program offered through the Local Union No. 58 Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Service Technicians, training Soldiers on welding and pipefitting.
"It's a great opportunity for the Soldiers," said Rebecca Sitterson, Fort Carson Education Center counselor. "I certainly think, in today's economy, knowing that you have a job when you separate, has to be very comforting."
Col. David Grosso, garrison commander, attended the graduation ceremony, March 7.
"The Army and the community are working together here to provide an opportunity for you all to take advantage of the foundational skills and services and experiences that you've learned over your term of service here and transition that into, not just a profitable or a productive, but a rewarding career outside of the military," he said.
Sgt. Willie Nazario, combat medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, is one of the program graduates.
"The best thing is, we've got guaranteed jobs. The day after I get out of the Army, I start to work," he said.
The program, which lasts 18 weeks, allows Soldiers to train with the union while they're on active duty so they already have the training and jobs to step into when they separate from the Army. Soldiers from any military occupational specialty are eligible for the program.
"The union is spending about $25,000 per Soldier to give them those 720 (training) hours," said Ursula Waldrip-Miller, Fort Carson education services officer.
There is no cost to the Army or to the Soldiers. Even the equipment and gear are provided free of charge.
After graduation, they become apprentices in the union for four to five years before they become journeymen, she said.
"They can have a second career with good benefits, guaranteed employment and excellent skills," she said.
After about eight years in the Army and three deployments, Sgt. Christopher Cygan, wheeled vehicle mechanic, 497th Engineer Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, is looking forward to his future career.
"I love this program. It's a great opportunity," he said. "It was challenging. You only get out of it what you put into it. It's a good program if you want to work."
The Veterans in Piping program, which began in Washington in 2008, is an opportunity for separating and retiring Soldiers to avoid the high unemployment rates prevalent among many veterans.
"There are literally thousands of people just like you with (military experience) and all the deployments that you have done, but without a translatable skill who go immediately on unemployment. Many others go into marginal minimum wage jobs with no future," said retired Marine Maj. Gen. Matthew Caulfield.
Soldiers nearing the end of their term of service who are interested in learning more about the program can contact Sitterson, 526-2112, or the Education Center at 526-2124.
"Good attitude is what (the union) is looking for, desire for a new career, commitment, loyalty. Of course, they have to want to go someplace where there is employment," Miller-Waldrip said.