ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – In August, 10 apprentices will join the more than 1,200 graduates of the Rock Island Arsenal – Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center’s Machinist Apprenticeship Program.
The four-year program began at RIA-JMTC in 1910 with a class of 50. Established to ensure thorough training and the continuance of a high standard of production, today’s apprentices continue that tradition. The RIA-JMTC mission is committed to supporting the warfighter and this program helps to ensure they receive the best equipment from a highly-skilled workforce. The factory has produced a variety of items for the warfighter throughout its 160-year history including add-on armor, mobile maintenance vehicles, ambulances, howitzers and small arms parts.
“I’ve watched what our machinists can do and make from a raw piece of material and that part or equipment that is going out to help, protect and improve what our Soldiers and military have on the front lines to protect our most valuable assets and freedoms,” said Adam Hock, a graduating apprentice. “I was fortunate enough to be able to use some of these same products made from here when I was in (the Army) and this was a way to continue helping and giving back from what I started when I was in the Army myself.”
The drive to succeed in this program is significant as it involves almost 7,500 hours of on-the-job training in addition to two years of schooling. A 15-year employee at RIA-JMTC, Hock held positions throughout the factory, from a fork truck operator to final pack quality assurance specialist. Throughout his time in the factory, Hock saw the impact the apprentice program had on employees and the organization. This and his Army experience prompted his interest to apply.
Hock fought to complete the program, not because of its challenging nature, but a personal event. During the program, Hock and his wife welcomed twins. Having children is already challenging, but Hock’s situation was much more dire. The twins were born 15 weeks early and spent six months in the newborn intensive care unit.
Hock pushed through every day, watching his children in the NICU and sometimes not even being able to see them due to COVID restrictions. He was determined to complete the program to help provide for his growing family.
“Staying focused on my training and what was being taught but at the same time being there for my wife and kids during that difficult period was the hardest thing for myself,” he said.
Hock persevered, earning high marks in the program; balancing nights away from his wife so she could still see the babies, as COVID restrictions were still in place; and at times, not being able to see his children. This earned some respect from his supervisors.
“I believe Adam’s biggest strength is his dedication to his family,” said Robert McCartney, RIA-JMTC machining apprentice supervisor. “He and I have talked several times about his two children and there is no doubt in my mind that he will always push himself to achieve any goal that he feels will provide a better life for his children. I have to respect his whole-hearted dedication to his family.”
Another of his supervisors also admired his ability to maintain a work-life balance during that time.
“Adam’s devotion and dedication to the warfighter never wavered during that very difficult time in his life,” said Scott Ambort, Industrial Training branch chief. “Adam remained steadfast and always kept an open line of communication.”
That communication was essential to ensure Hock could maintain the work-life balance he needed with his newborns. Accomplishing his goals in becoming a machinist have become a little easier now that the twins are older and Hock is excited to be approaching graduation. He looks forward to growing more in this trade.
“(I’m looking forward to) hitting the floor running and learning more from the old timers and the guys that have been doing this for a long time,” he said. “Improving my abilities and knowledge, finding where I fit in and exceeding my expectations.”
The apprentice supervisors are also looking forward to seeing his impact on the floor and his contributions to the team.
“Adam has the ability to adjust on the fly when needed,” said McCartney. “This is invaluable in the shop … The benefit is that, whatever problem he works on will most likely get solved. His experience mixed with his determination will almost always result in a positive outcome.”
Despite the praise, Hock remains humble and grateful.
“I just appreciate everyone who has been involved in my last 15 years, and even before I started working here: training me, teaching me and giving me the opportunities that have laid the foundation to where I am able to be today,” he said. “It has been a heck of a ride.”
This is part of a series highlighting apprentices graduating from the RIA-JMTC Machinist Apprenticeship Program in 2022.