WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. – Since 2000, students from Manchester’s Howell Cheney Technical High School have worked with the Connecticut Army National Guard to gain valuable technical experience and hands-on training in the world of diesel mechanics.
Cheney High freshmen and sophomores gain classroom experience on real engine components through classroom-focused lessons on the principles of diesel mechanics while juniors and seniors move out of the classroom to pursue part-time work in local diesel mechanic shops. A number of these student report to Camp Hartell to learn diesel mechanics from the guardsmen themselves.
For two weeks, every month, students spend four hours per day learning under the supervision of experienced guardsmen while assisting in the daily operations and preventive maintenance inspections of military vehicles. The guardsmen make it a point to teach important technical skills to the students and provide new learning opportunities every time they are in the shop. The students learn the, “tricks of the trade,” along with in-depth analysis in drivetrain, brakes, engine function, and tire maintenance in a hands-on environment.
The program’s added benefit of showing high school students the benefits of joining the Connecticut National Guard can be seen in three individuals who graduated from Cheney Tech and now work at Camp Hartell. Spc. Emmanuel Soto, Pfc. Carie Trigo and Pfc. Cameron Perriolat, were all classmates who graduated from Cheney Technical High School and were former participants of this program at Camp Hartell. Soto and Perriolat served as mentors for Trigo, serving as a perfect example of what an impact this program has on current students and their potential futures in the National Guard.
"At first, you can tell that a lot of the students coming through our program have no idea what the Connecticut National Guard has to offer," said Maj. David Tripp, Connecticut Army National Guard Surface Maintenance Manager. "This program not only teaches them valuable skills that may help them in a future trade, it exposes them to the benefits of being in the Guard and the on-the-job training that goes along with it."
After graduating high school in June 2017, Trigo went straight to basic and graduated AIT in April 2018. In October 2018, Trigo secured a temporary technician position at Camp Hartell as a diesel technician, where she hopes to attain a full-time position after she completes her probationary period. Although training her former high school classmates feels strange, she has been providing instruction since her junior year and finds it rewarding to share her knowledge. She is excited to continue to learn the diesel mechanic field together with her classmates.
The example set by these three demonstrate the positive impact the Connecticut National Guard has in the community. The Howell Cheney Technical Program’s relationship with the National Guard is a great opportunity for young men and women to find a future career and become an asset to their community and country.