The non-profit organization provides critical career training opportunities to service members leaving active duty
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Inside the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center near Potter Drive, active duty service members strive to learn the skills they need to become certified electricians. It is under the umbrella of the Veteran Electrical Entry Program (VEEP), a program that Army veteran Kyle Kaiser helped bring to life.
“I had lost one of my Afghan soldiers to suicide and it really shook me. I was upset and angry,” Kaiser said. “How did I find my way to an apprenticeship, become a journeyman electrician and have the career path that I went on but, you know, he didn’t.”
The launch of VEEP inspired Kaiser to expand transition training opportunities, which led him to found the non-profit organization VIPER Transitions. It is designed to help future and current veterans navigate the process of returning to civilian life by providing training opportunities in a career field that interests them.
“I think the biggest misconception people have is that you get out of the military, you go straight into your next job,” Kaiser said. “The owner is all about the military and super patriotic and awesome, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to hire me as an infantryman with no skills to do what he needs to do.”
Kaiser struggled with his own transition out of the military in 2011. His VA benefits didn’t start right away and it got to the point where he, his wife and their newborn baby were on the verge of to be homeless when he reached out. to Senator Lisa Murkowski. Luckily, Murkowski was able to get through her disability rating, although she admits that shouldn’t be the case.
“At the end of the day, this veteran you work for deserves to receive the benefits they’ve earned and deserves to have them in a timely manner,” Murkowski said.
“It shouldn’t be necessary to take an act of Congress – literally – to get your benefits, and sometimes I think that’s how our veterans feel.”
As service members cut pipes and pull wires at the training facility, across town on Merrill Field, Marine Corps veteran Neal Hambleton checks spark plugs from an airplane inside Pratt’s hangar Aviation Services. Hambleton is working as an apprentice to obtain his Airframe and Powerplant certification.
“Trades seems to be where a lot of veterans go, just because it’s more comfortable for us,” Hambleton said.
“Metalworkers, ironworkers, welders, carpenters – lots of veterans – because we can just be ourselves.”
Hambleton left the Marine Corps in 2012. He worked in law enforcement for a while, but it felt more like something he was meant to do rather than something he wanted.
“I was Amphibious Assault,” Hambleton said. “There’s not a huge market for it in the civilian world.”
It was not until joining the air force through Kaiser’s organization that Hambleton found a career path he could see himself in for the long haul. VIPER Transitions caught up with John Pratt, president of Pratt Aviation Services, and himself a Vietnam veteran.
“Veterans are a resource that is rarely fully utilized,” Pratt said.
“What people are looking for when you’re looking for someone to work for you, you’re looking for integrity, you’re looking for people who are willing to learn, you’re looking for all those sorts of things – the things that make a good employee – and I think veterans do that.
Pratt has already guided a number of veterans through work opportunities in his hangar.
“What’s important to me is that they had their chance,” Pratt said.
It’s a chance Kaiser is committed to giving active-duty service members, training them during their final days so they’ll be set up with a successful career opportunity once they’re discharged.
“When you get out of the military, everything changes in your life. You go from knowing exactly what you’re going to be paid every two weeks to nothing,” Kaiser said.
“When they make the transition and come into this job, there are no surprises. You know what you’re getting into, you know what the career is, you know what the benefits are, you know how much you’re going to get paid – you can plan your life.
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