WCCA, WCA partner to improve Guernsey training area

A developing partnership has helped Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center continue its mission of providing high-level training facilities to its customers, and to improve career opportunities for Wyoming Cowboy ChalleNGe Academy graduates.

The cooperative agreement between the National Guard Bureau-sponsored WCCA and the Wyoming Contractors Association’s Regional Training Center, located in Casper, has enabled a few recent WCCA graduates to earn advanced certificates in construction trades, to go along with the construction training they received while cadets at the residential program for at-risk youth.

“Some of our graduates have had a difficult time finding meaningful employment, so WCA was kind enough to offer some additional training here,” said ChalleNGe Academy Deputy Director David Salazar. “They have their finger on the pulse of what the state’s labor needs are. We came into some additional training funds, so we put our heads together and came up with a plan to provide the certificate training.”

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The four participating graduates returned to Camp Guernsey for three weeks. During that time, they not only built two guard shacks to be used at entry control points at one of the training areas, but also helped mentor and train cadets at the Camp Guernsey-based program.

“They actually enjoyed being part of the program and helping out the cadre with drill and ceremony and physical training. We thought it might be an issue, but it’s not,” Salazar added.

Class 30 graduate Sean Spiering, from Powell, said he appreciates getting to see the program from a different perspective.

“It was a great time. I learned a lot dealing with the cadets and getting a better idea of what the sergeants do,” Spiering explained. “I got to help mentor and talked about what it takes to get through the program. I felt like some really listened, knowing I’ve been through it.”

Spiering said he has been working at a fast food restaurant since graduating in December 2016, but wanted to do something more challenging. Now he’s trained to do construction, but also drawn to work at the ChalleNGe Academy.

“WCCA teaches us to be able to adapt and change in situations, and I’d like to help the cadets do that,” Spiering added.

According to Wyoming Contractors Association Regional Training Center carpenter instructor Abel Ortiz, who trained the cadets when they bused to Casper for 16 training sessions during their 5 1/2-month residential phase, the sheds project enabled them to utilize most of the carpentry skills needed to construct a residential structure.

“It’s been a real blessing getting to help out with this first-time class. They did awesome and they learned a lot,” Ortiz said. “They should be able to get a job. There are lots of jobs in the construction industry right now with people retiring, and so forth, so we’re looking forward to helping more with the academy and helping the kids find good jobs for them and their families.”

The sheds were placed at the entry control points to the IED Village at the camp’s North Training Area, and will provide military personnel a more realistic training experience, as security details in combat zones often utilize similar structures.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Bye, facility engineer/deputy public works officer at Camp Guernsey, thanked the student-builders and explained the significance of the sheds to the camp’s mission.

“You didn’t just build a shed, you provided a place for soldiers to train,” Bye said. “This will save lives. We’ll reinforce it with sandbags and add fighting positions and really make it look realistic.”

“That’s pretty neat, now that I know what they’re going to do with it,” Spiering said. “I thought it was going to be a garden shed or something.”

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