Soldiers learn to transition into to the construction workforce


by Whitney LB Miller

ANCHORAGE - As soldiers prepare to strap up their boots for the last time - many start to contemplate what lies ahead.

A local academy is helping some of those veterans transition from field work to the construction site.

Its called Helmets to Hard Hats; a week long course geared at changing the lives of Alaska's soldiers in a positive way.

Giving them valuable construction skills that they can apply to the work force beyond the gates.
For private first class Farrow Fontenot, the skills he's picking up in the free week long course translates to dollar signs outside of military.

"You can always find a job with trades like this I plan on using it after the military," said Fontenot. "I want to get into more  cement based work but this is always good to know, you can build your home or you can work on side projects."

Fontenot and Private Benjamin both volunteered for the course after it was offered to their units.

"They told me to do it I was pretty excited to come out here," said Benjamin. "Putting up frames for a building and putting up drywall; fundamentals of construction."

Although Benjamin has taken a similar course in the past, he says you can never learn too much. After the course and the military he plans to start his own construction business.

"This class just teaches you how to build," he said. "I think if you stick with the program it will teach you a little more."

From the shop to the classroom the instructor William Andrew says these valuable skills will take the soldiers far."

"Once they are done here, we show them what i actually do on a construction site," said Andrew. "I want to make sure that these folks know how competitive it is out there and I want them to get the basic skills in order to compete."

After exploring the trade Fontenot says the skills he is taking from the training are sure to place him on a path that is more than just tools and belt.

"I feel good, I feel like I could be doing this on a job site like i would be more than capable of handling my responsibilities," said Fotenot.

There is no doubt about it these men and women in arms will leave the course with ground breaking skills and a bright future.

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