After 26 years in the U.S. Army, Master Sgt. Michael Sadler had been stressed about his upcoming retirement from service.
“Transitioning into civilian life is hard for someone like me,” Sadler said. “All I’ve known is the military. So there was a lot of worry about what am I going to do. I know I want and need to work and keep busy, but my biggest fear was finding a job that I would like.”
Sadler is one of 13 Fort Hood soldiers nearing completion of their military service who recently graduated from Caliber Collision’s Changing Lanes program, which is designed to provide skills and tools for a new career in collision repair. The soldiers comprise Fort Hood’s first graduating cohort of Changing Lanes.
Through Changing Lanes, active-duty service members can take advantage of free training, certification and employment opportunities prior to transitioning out of the U.S. Armed Forces.
“I have been amazed at the abundance of information and training we have received in a short period of time,” said Nate McGuire, a Changing Lanes participant with 11 years in the service. “I feel that we have been set up for success, that we are just not going out there on our own. We have the skills and training to earn income right away.”
The 18-week hands-on-training course is offered free to transitioning soldiers at Caliber’s dedicated Changing Lanes Training Academy in Killeen, Texas. Participants earn industry-accredited I-CAR points through a combination of class instruction and hands-on training experience.
All 13 soldiers in this first Fort Hood cohort have received employment offers at Caliber locations, primarily in Central Texas, and will start their careers armed with a $12,000 toolbox, according to Caliber Collision.
“Transitioning into civilian life is one of the most stressful times for soldiers and their families,” said Charles Green, director of human resources at Fort Hood. “Changing Lanes is so powerful because it gives back to our soldiers what they want and deserve the most – the ability to continue to take care of their families and maintain their quality of life. We can’t thank Caliber enough for showing our soldiers how much we appreciate their sacrifices.”
Caliber’s Changing Lanes program launched earlier this year at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C. The company said it expects 200 more soldiers to enroll by the end of the year at Fort Hood, Fort Bragg and other military installations throughout the country, and has an overall goal to train 500 soldiers per year beginning in 2018.
“Changing Lanes is an absolute win-win for our military heroes and Caliber,” Caliber Collision CEO Steve Grimshaw said. “Transitioning soldiers gain valuable skills to jumpstart a rewarding collision repair career. Caliber Collision benefits from bringing on board teammates whose military training and background mirrors our core values and commitment to provide complete satisfaction as we restore the rhythm of lives.”
Soldiers Refurbish, Donate Car for Veteran Family
A highlight of the graduation ceremonies was the presentation of a 2016 Honda Civic, which the Changing Lanes cohort refurbished for Killeen veterans Antoinette and Patrick Dombroski, who together have 16 years of service.
Antoinette was medically retired two years ago, and has been unable to work, resulting in financial strain for the family. Recently, their only car broke down, leaving Patrick, Antoinette and their children, ages 7 and 9, to rely on bus, foot or rides from family and friends.
The vehicle donation is part of Caliber’s Recycled Rides program with the National Auto Body Council, in which collision repairers team up to donate and repair vehicles to individuals in need of reliable transportation.