FORT DIX, N.J. -- The Army relies on electricians to provide the power necessary to do their jobs, such as lighting Army facilities, running power tools and operating computers. To meet this need, instructors from the 80th Training Command and 102nd Training Division, Maneuver Support, teach the 12R Interior Electrician course to Army Reserve, National Guard, and regular Army Soldiers at The Army School System Training Center Dix, New Jersey, throughout the year, rain or shine.
An instructor for the 1st Battalion, 108th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 102nd Training Division, Staff Sgt. William Smith teaches the 12R training at Training Center Dix. When he's not on orders conducting Army training, he works as a civilian residential and commercial electrician back home in Lexington, South Carolina. He has worked as a civilian electrician for almost 12 years, about as long as he's been teaching the electrician course in the Army Reserve.
Smith says his civilian electrician experience helps him enhance the 12R Program of Instruction, or POI. He explained that the POI serves as the blue print for what they teach and the methods they use for teaching.
"The POI for this interior electrician training gives us instructors the basic standards, but then we add our own personal experiences to the POI," said Smith. "By doing this, we augment the learning value that students get from this training. We give them things they might run into outside of the classroom, which makes them more well-rounded electricians."
Smith explained they teach Soldiers basic math, such as fractions, for the residential part, and a little more than basic math for the commercial side. Interior electrician instructors also teach techniques for wiring switches, outlets and junction boxes; electrical circuit troubleshooting; working with diagrams, blueprints and specifications; and installation of conduit, switches, cables, lighting fixtures, outlets and service panels.
Ensuring safety procedures are followed, instructors teach Soldiers how to test circuits and systems to ensure they are working correctly. If a problem develops, the students learn how to locate the source of the problem and correct it.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Danilda Serrette, an instructor with the 1st Battalion, 80th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 102nd Training Division, the instructors start with teaching the basic fundamentals of electricity, before moving on to more complex concepts and skills.
"One of the first things we teach is how to read schematics," said Serrette. "For example, we draw out what a single-pulse light switch looks like on paper, and also have the real thing in their hands to compare them side by side. We use crayons to show how the circuitry works in this."
Serrette points out that one of the criteria for the course is not being color blind. To make the course more engaging, instructors use crayons to highlight key elements of the training for their students.
"You have to distinguish between red and green colors to be an electrician, because, what if you hook up the wrong colored wire? It's just not going to work," said Serrette. "We draw out the schematics for circuits and use crayons to highlight the different parts of the circuit. Our students really like this and find it very helpful. They have fun coloring, and it helps improve their learning. "
A Newburgh, New York native, Serrette has been a 12R instructor for about a year. She enjoys seeing the fruits of her labor, knowing that she is providing ready and capable interior electricians to the Army Reserve's mission.
"It's a lot of fun teaching these younger Soldiers. When they are learning all these things in the electrician training, they have that light bulb moment," said Serrette. "The light bulb moment is when they're putting it all together and something clicks in their head, and they say 'aha!' Of course, the light bulb is kind of a funny pun for us working with electricity."
Serrette explained that one of the fundamentals they teach is basic math calculations.
"You know, when you're a kid in school, maybe you didn't think math was all that important," said Serrette. "However, it's important if you want to be an electrician. This course doesn't require you to know lots of complicated math, but if you're thinking about going through this training, you should at least know the basics of math."
Reflecting on his role as an instructor, Smith explains how teaching Soldiers to be skilled interior electricians contributes to the Army Reserve's mission.
"Without knowledgeable instructors, we don't have well trained and ready Soldiers to go out and complete the missions," said Smith. "Teaching this course is important for the Soldiers to have this as a foundation to build upon throughout their careers. Highly skilled instructors are absolutely essential in having a combat-ready force."