FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Dec. 13, 2018) -- Seven transitioning Fort Drum Soldiers were recognized Dec. 11 as Construction Craft Laborer (CCL) course graduates during a ceremony at Clark Hall.

This is one of four employment skills training classes offered through the Fort Drum Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program. Funded by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), it is designed to prepare transitioning service members with skills needed for employment in the construction industry.

Jeff Albert, CCL program manager and ABC chief operating officer, said that providing this training to transitioning Soldiers addresses a critical issue in the job market: the need to assimilate veterans into a career field different from soldiering and far removed from their familiar military environment.

"I give the military a ton of credit for realizing that in these career skills programs - especially with construction," he said. "We talked about how military skills would be transferable to everyday life on a construction job site. We really didn't know."

Included in the six-week curriculum is instruction in basic safety, construction math, hand and power tools, introduction to materials and other employable skills. Graduates received credentials, equivalent to a New York State Laborer apprentice, from the National Center for Construction Education and Research. Albert credited lead instructor Chris Gray, from Structural Associates, for sharing his expertise with the veterans.

"He has become the heart of this program, and he deserves the credit for its success," Albert said.

Additionally, this graduating class completed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 10-hour safety training program. Jason Ashlaw, statewide director for safety and craft training and workforce development, provided this instruction in addition to some of the basic tenants of construction.

"My main role was to deliver the OSHA-10 certification, and Jeff and I were able to bring a couple of other certifications in that are equally as relevant to construction," he said. "OSHA-10 is the foundation for construction workers. If you don't have safety, you don't have anything when it comes to construction."

Ashlaw commended the students for how they engaged in the training.

"I don't know if I have ever had as much fun with another group of individuals," he said. "This was an experience like no other for me. They were cooperative, helpful, interested and capable. There were so many things about this class that just amped me up, and I'm excited to do this again."

Ashlaw said that it was apparent how well the Soldiers worked together as a team.

"They are very complementary to each other and nobody gets left behind - if one doesn't know the information, the others will pile on that guy to make sure he's got the information," Ashlaw said. "They all had different strengths, which I thought was fantastic, and it really helped the content and the success of the class."

Lorrie Guler, transition services manager at Fort Drum SFL-TAP, said that she has seen such teamwork develop instantly in other skills training programs as well.

"The cohesiveness that occurs is amazing," she said. "You come from different units, have different jobs and have different lengths of time in the Army, and look at the comments that you get about how you came together as a team. The employers out there are looking for that."

She told the graduates not to underestimate the impact that they've made.

"You came in, you conquered and you graduated with all this knowledge, and now you're going to go out and be successful in finding a new job," Guler said.

She also asked the graduates to thank their chain of command for the chance to participate in the career skills program.

"They allowed you to take time out of your duty day - and we all know how busy this division is - to do this, so please acknowledge your leadership for this opportunity," Guler said. "Also, what you tell your friends and battle buddies back at your unit will impact them coming into this program."

First Sgt. Joe Kishel was an immediate success story for the CCL program. He already secured a construction job from one of the instructors, following his separation from the Army. Kishel said that he learned a valuable lesson from the class about working alongside civilians and dispelling any fear he might have had about making the transition into the civilian workforce.

"I always say that one of the reasons I chose construction after being in the Army so long is because there is a mission," he said. "That's something I've been doing in the Army forever. There's a team and there's an end result. That's what I live for."

Kishel had previously enrolled in SFL-TAP's Onward to Opportunities program and received a human resources certification through Syracuse University. He brought his two young daughters to the CCL graduation to teach them something.

"The reason I wanted them here is for them to see that you never stop learning," Kishel said. "It's all about lifelong learning."

To learn more about SFL-TAP and the type of career skills training and internships offered, call (315) 772-3434 or visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/MPD/SFL-TAP.