From the Battlefield to the HVAC Industry: Trade Warriors Begin a New Mission

A career-transition program designed for military veterans started its second year while celebrating many firsts.

April 3, 2023
Two young African American women in black shirts are standing and smiling.

A career-transition program designed for military veterans started its second year while celebrating many firsts. 

Trade Warriors, a program that helps active-duty service members and veterans transition into HVAC careers, has begun training its seventh cohort at a new location on the Fort Bragg military base. The program, which started in 2021, provides more than 300 hours of hands-on HVAC training to prepare members of the military for employment as an HVAC service technician or installer at an American Standard dealer. The ultimate goal of the program is to help veterans find meaningful employment while also addressing the HVAC industry's growing need for qualified technicians.

Rosheen Pennant and Talia Tavares Moreno, two of the recent graduates from the program, shared their experiences with the Trade Warriors program. Pennant, a former Senior Logistics Specialist, was looking for a new career as she neared the end of her contract with the U.S. Army Reserve. She found out about the program from a brochure and was immediately drawn to the opportunity to learn a valuable trade. Despite having no technical knowledge about HVAC, Pennant was determined to learn as much as possible during the 8-week course.

“When you leave the army, a lot of people may feel like they don’t have a purpose,” said Pennant. “HVAC is always needed and has potential for career growth. And it’s also a lifetime skill—you know you won’t have to pay anybody to come fix your own equipment.” 

A young, female African American in an Army uniform is performing HVAC maintenance on a furnace.
Two female Army personnel, an African American and caucasian are working on a home furnace unit

Rosheen Pennant: Exploring the Possibilities of an HVAC Technician

Rosheen Pennant grew up in Jamaica and came to the United States with her parents and three siblings in 2017. After two years at Broward College in Broward, Fla., she joined the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg. In 2022, having served as a Senior Logistics Specialist, nearing the end of her contract and heading into the US Army Reserve, it was time to plan what would come next.

The answer came in the form of a Trade Warriors brochure Rosheen received at a career skills program for service members leaving active duty. “I called Jay Gripentrog, who was the recruiter for the program, and he was very helpful and had me speak to one of the instructors,” she says. “They wanted to make sure I had the determination to do the course.”

Once accepted into the program, Rosheen was determined to learn everything she could. Although she had no technical knowledge about HVAC, she describes the instructors as the most advantageous part of the program. “They’d break down the instructions, providing pictures and examples, and then we would go straight into the lab for hands-on experiences,” she says.

Rosheen’s original career plan was to become a urologist and found that her scientific mindset was an asset during the intensive 8-hour days. “It’s all about critical thinking,” she says. “In HVAC, problem solving is not just a surface-level thing—you need to dig deeper. They taught me not only about being an HVAC technician, but how to troubleshoot, which is what can set us apart in the industry.”

As a freshly minted graduate, Rosheen has high expectations for an HVAC career. Completing the program contributes points towards getting a contractor’s license, which will be one of her first steps. “Once I have that, I can look at starting my own business venture, and I also want to build a home back in Jamaica,” she says.

Talia Tavares Moreno: Inspiring Military Women

Tavares Moreno had a different path to the program. She completed nearly four years at Fort Bragg in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Infantry and was looking for a career that would offer more flexibility as her family lived 3,300 miles away. She met the recruiter for Trade Warriors, Jay Gripentrog, and was immediately intrigued by the program. Although she had no previous experience in HVAC, Tavares Moreno saw similarities between the program and her time in the service. She appreciated the intensive training and the positive mindset required to succeed in both endeavors. 

“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be in the army,” says Talia. Getting into the military was a little more complicated, though, as her parents are from Cape Verde, so soon after she was born in Boston, they returned to their home in the islands off the west coast of Africa. In 8th grade, Talia came back to Massachusetts and lived with her aunt while she completed high school and attended Quincy Community College.

Fast forward to today, and Talia has completed nearly four years at Fort Bragg in the US Army’s 82nd Infantry. Even though her family is far away, her post-service career choice needed to factor in more flexibility. “I was thinking it was time for me to see what is out there, and that’s when I met Jay Gripentrog, who’s the recruiter for Trade Warriors,” she says. “I told him it sounded interesting, but I’d never done anything like this before. His response was that I didn’t need to—they’d teach us everything.”

In that respect, Talia sees similarities between the Trade Warriors program and her time in the service. “The army needs to teach you things in a short period of time, and also you have to have a positive mindset—you learn not to quit,” she says. “It’s also similar because people come from a lot of different backgrounds, and then they shape you for a specific job.”

As a female service member, Talia hopes to inspire other women to try their hand at HVAC and embrace new opportunities. “From being in the military, I’m used to being in a majority male environment,” she says. “I feel like this program can make women comfortable giving HVAC a try, when they see people like me and Rosheen graduating.”

Empowering Service Members with HVAC Careers to Find Independence, Purpose and Growth

Trade Warriors is an excellent program that offers service members and veterans, like Rosheen and Talia, the opportunity to learn valuable skills and start a new career in HVAC. The program's emphasis on hands-on training and problem-solving sets it apart from other training programs. Graduates of the program are equipped with the skills and knowledge to become successful HVAC technicians and installers, with the potential to start their own businesses in the future. The HVAC industry needs qualified technicians, and Trade Warriors is helping to fill that gap while also providing meaningful employment opportunities for veterans.

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