STURTEVANT (WITI) — Imagine after years of training for one career, you’re forced to start all over again. That is a prospect every member of the military faces when they leave the Armed Forces — and one veteran has turned his Air Force experience into a civilian business.
Kim Weckerly spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, 16 of those as an Aircraft Welder. When he retired from the military in 1994, he had a difficult time getting used to civilian life.
“When I was in the Air Force I really enjoyed the camaraderie and the structured day-to-day and when I got out of the service, like I said, it took me approximately a year to get through that,” Weckerly said.
Weckerly faced the same decision our country’s newest veterans are facing — what to do with life after the military.
Weckerly was able to use the experience he gained in the Air Force to open K&K Precision Welding.
Now, he’s passing his experience on to others as a teacher at Gateway Technical College. Though the course is open to anyone, many of Weckerly’s students are Iraq or Afghanistan vets searching for a new career.
“That is our goal that they can very seamlessly go from this Welding Boot Camp out into industry and get a job very quickly. They fall right into it. They understand the regiment that we`re doing. They`re comfortable with it. They seem to be comfortable with me and I think we, placing the veterans, we`re at about 80, 90 percent placement right now,” Weckerly said.
That is likely because Weckerly drew on his own military training when he helped design the 15-week intensive course.
“It was pretty regimented. I was in the welding booth eight hours a day and then we had three hours of homework every night. They`re in the welding booth eight hours a day but I don`t give as much homework,” Weckerly said.
“At the end of the day when I go home as far as I`m concerned it`s about finding these guys work and I really enjoy giving them the entry level skills that they need so they can get a job, improve their quality of life and return it back to the community,” Weckerly said.
For anyone interested, vets or otherwise, the next Welding and Metal Fabrication Boot Camp begins this January. Classes are held at the I-Met Center in Sturtevant.