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Construction Electricians power military might

  • Published
  • By Julie Svoboda
  • 82d Training Wing

The Center for Seabees and Facilities Engineering Detachment at Sheppard Air Force Base instructs more than 200 Airmen, soldiers and sailors annually to meet the demand for construction electricians.

As an Inter-Service Training Review Organization partner, students from all branches train together for the first seven weeks of the 14-week course. After that, the classes separate to learn skills specific to what they will encounter in real-world operations, such as generators for the Navy and airfield lighting for Airmen.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Dixon is an instructor for the course. He explained that the initial joint training translates to inter-service operability down the road.

“It’s nice for us because it is ITROS and we get to see a variety of services,” he said. “We get to share some knowledge about what the Air Force or the Navy has, and that brotherhood and sisterhood we’ve created.”

The instructors also help the students progress in their journey from basic training to operational bases.

“We're here to train future Air Force, Navy and Army for their future jobs,” he said. “Get them there. Not just for their jobs but for being in the service as well, because it is a very big transition from the civilian side to military.”

Likewise, the transition between basic training graduate to electrician requires careful guidance. The students learn CPR in case they need to render aid to someone in cardiac arrest from an electric shock and conquer any fear of heights by climbing 30-foot utility poles. Despite the risks, the career is rewarding.

According to Dixon, well-trained electricians support combat capability during military service, as well as fuel economic growth after active duty. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for electricians are projected to increase by six percent over the next decade in the private sector.

“This is a good introductory or foot in the door as you would call it, from transitioning from the military to a lot of those blue-collar jobs that remain unopened and filled,” he said.  “We have a lot of problems, whether it's military or civilian, filling those roles. So, getting people to use their hands out again and get involved in some great paying opportunities and educate themselves not just for the military, but long term as well. So do your time in the service and you also get something back as well that you can use outside after you leave the service.”

Dixon, however, has no plans to leave active duty for greener pastures.

“Speaking for myself, and the vast majority, from what I've seen from other people in the service, it's your commitment to country,” he said. “We all have that commitment. We all want to serve and do our extra part whatever way we can.”

Tech Sgt. Giancarlo Cornejo, also an instructor at the CE schoolhouse, has been in the Air Force for 14 years. He echoes these sentiments.

“While civilian opportunities were certainly accessible, what sets the Air Force apart for me is its distinct structure, the profound sense of camaraderie, and the invaluable benefits that come with being a military member,” he said. “However, what I hold in highest regard is the opportunity to serve my nation, a commitment that holds significant importance to me.  This service ensures that my family and children can continue to live in a society founded on the principles of freedom and security.”

As an electrician, Cornejo enjoys the adrenaline rush that comes after restoring power in a critical situation. He finds his current role as an instructor equally rewarding.

“I find immense satisfaction in the opportunity to mold the future Airmen and Non-Commissioned Officers in our 7-level classes,” he said. “It’s truly rewarding, particularly when you witness that moment when the proverbial light bulb switches on and they grasp the material.”

Cornejo added that embarking on a career in the military as an electrician can have long-reaching benefits for personal and professional growth.

“If you're seeking an opportunity to serve your country during times of need while also securing valuable education and medical benefits, look no further,” he said. “If you're in search of discipline and a profound sense of purpose, our team is ready to welcome you. A career in Electrical Systems isn't just a crucial role in the Air Force, but it also seamlessly transitions into the civilian sector.  By choosing this path, you're not only acquiring a valuable skill, but you're investing in a trade that will serve you well throughout your entire life.”