By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. – Maj. Gen. Darrell K. Williams has heard the praises relating to the Soldier For Life – Transition Assistance Program, an Army entity that provides support for transitioning warriors.
On Feb. 18, the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee commanding general was afforded the opportunity to witness the merits of SFL-TAP for himself during a visit to the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe factory in Prince George County where he talked with former soldiers who received transition assistance. He surmised it is mutually beneficial for military members and the localities at large.
“It’s pretty clear the community is going to get someone who has work experience, who brings great values, education and hard work to the job,” he said. “For our soldiers who are transitioning from the military, there is no better place to live than in Virginia, and their employment here provides them the means to support their families. It’s a win-win situation.”
SFL-TAP provides career assistance to Soldiers who are transitioning from the military either through retirement or discharge. One of its most recent initiatives is supporting the Computer Numerical Control Machining Skills Certification program, the first career skills program pilot offered at Fort Lee. Funded at no cost to the soldier through the Crater Regional Workforce Investment Group, it offers seven weeks of online training and 16 weeks of project-based, hands-on introductory machinist instruction that aims to complement local manufacturing hiring efforts.
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing, a state-supported industry partnership that includes Roll-Royce, provided instructional guidance. The first CNCMSC pilot class graduated in September 2015, and several of its graduates have gained local employment.
During his visit to Rolls-Royce, Williams toured the facility that manufactures aircraft parts and spoke at length with recent CNCMSC pilot graduates and former Army logisticians Nakia Chambliss and DeCoress Parrott. Both received multiple job offers with high wages before deciding upon Rolls-Royce. Chambliss said the machining skills training and the machining positions offered by Rolls-Royce are everything they were billed to be.
“It’s an excellent program,” said the former automated logistical specialist last assigned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis. “Once you commit to it, it is something that is not hard or strenuous. And the work at Rolls-Royce – the name speaks for itself – has been a blessing.”
Chambliss said her position as a computer numerically-controlled machinist – its technical name – is not the same as a machinist in the traditional sense.
“It is so easy because you’re not doing manual labor,” she said. “You’re basically running a computer and letting it do the work for you. You need an open mind to understand what we actually do.”
Parrott, an ordnance soldier who retired last year at Fort Lee, said the machinist skills training was a challenge cloaked in reward and advises those who are scheduled for transition to seriously consider it.
“All you need is a passion to be willing to learn,” he said. “I started out as a mechanic, but my teachers and classmates helped me. It is a worthwhile opportunity.”
Rolls-Royce is one of several central Virginia manufacturers experiencing increased demands for skilled workers such as machinists, said Scott Edwards, senior human resource generalist at the building façade company Enclos, which is also looking to hire in the local area.
In addition to the CNCMSC pilot, a second cohort has commenced, and SFL-TAP and the CASCOM are taking actions to implement a number of improvements, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Antonio L. Belmar Sr., credentialing and transition readiness officer. CASCOM Soldier for Life Office.
No machinist experience is required to apply for the machinist program, but there are a number of prerequisites.
For more information, call the Fort Lee Soldier for Life -Transition Assistance Program at (804) 734-6615.