Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center Machinist Apprentice Graduation Ceremony. The 113-year-old program provides skilled, U.S. Department of Labor-certified journeyman machinists to help RIA-JMTC continue producing high-quality equipment for American warfighters. Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center develops, manufactures and delivers readiness solutions through conventional and advanced manufacturing processes for the U.S. Army and Department of Defense systems globally.
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- After four years of hard work, new challenges and a global pandemic, the latest machinist apprentice class from the Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center solidified its place in Army history.
“In the early days there was no schooling, no drafting (nor) computer numerical control (CNC) machines. Just apprentices working with instructors” Director of Homebase Operations at RIA-JMTC Chris Largent said. “A lot of changes and flexibility in those 113 years, and 12-hundred graduates: location, duration, curriculum and terminology. What has not changed is its purpose… to train skilled trades workers and leaders to assist the Army to fight and win this nation’s wars.”
The graduating group of apprentices include 12 people, each with their own unique story of what led them to become Army Civilians. From a former math teacher to a former Soldier, every person completed the college education and hands-on-training requirements to become journeymen inside the factory’s historic walls.
Those include Jared Boldt, Larry Clemons II, Matthew Clong, Edwin Doran, Timothy Ewing, Brian Killian, Justin Levetzow, David Pobanz, Stephen Schiffke, Albert Stacy, Robert Thompson and Michael Warren. The graduates will continue to support the warfighter with the equipment they produce like armor kits for the Stryker family of vehicles, the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) Urban Survivability Kit (HUSK) and components for tanks like the M10 Booker and M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The gear gives the Army the best tools needed to win wars.
“Graduates, I am impressed by your dedication and hard work over the past four years and your willingness to be a student again…even do trigonometry,” COL David Guida, commanding officer of RIA-JMTC said. “Our factory relies on team members like you, with a willingness to learn and improve. Thanks for being willing to do just that.”
To complete the program, many of the students and their families made personal and professional sacrifices to advance their careers. Some even waited years to become journeymen, because demand for the RIA-JMTC machinist apprenticeship program has been so high over the past two-decades.
“Programs like this make a huge difference, but only with the right people willing to give their time and talent,” Guida said. “A supportive network is essential to success, and I can tell by looking at this audience, these graduates have that in spades.”
The 113 year history of machinist apprentices’ role at RIA played a pivotal part in the graduation ceremony, with Rock Island Arsenal Museum Director Patrick Allie delivering the keynote address. He spoke of several “firsts” as the modern program began to take shape.
“In 1980, the first woman machinist, Gale Lee, completed the program and was assigned as a numerical control machinist in the Arsenal Operations Directorate’s machining section,” Allie said. “In 1992, Floria Moore became the first woman supervisor to head up the apprentice program. She had been a machinist apprentice instructor for nine years prior.”
The graduation comes at a time when more people are rejecting the traditional college model for trade schools. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, two-year college enrollment was down around 7.8 percent between 2021 and 2022, while enrollment in four-year universities dropped 3.4 percent during the same period. At the same time, mechanic and repair programs saw an enrollment increase of 11.5 percent, construction trades increased by 19.3 percent and culinary enrollment programs 12.7 percent.
The RIA-JMTC machinist apprenticeship program will continue its long history in 2024, with more students preparing to finish their four-year journeys. While they wait to share their successes with friends and family, they’ve already been challenged by Guida to help fulfill the factory’s vision.
“I ask that as you move forward from today, spend time thinking every day about how you contribute to our vision of providing high-quality and on-time readiness solutions to the warfighter while modernizing for the next fight,” Guida said. “Every single thing we do here should be in support of that vision. If we all stay focused on it, and truly understand our part in it, we will be doing what our nation needs us to do.”
Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center develops, manufactures and delivers readiness solutions through conventional and advanced manufacturing processes for the U.S. Army and Department of Defense systems globally.