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Machinist apprentices join ranks of 104 year-old-program

RIA-JMTC Commander Col. David J. Luders poses with the 2014 graduating class members of the RIA-JMTC Machinist Apprentice Program.

With a history dating back before World War I, the Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center's (RIA-JMTC) Machinist Apprentice Program has been graduating skilled machinists since 1910. A new group of 12 graduates continued the tradition and graduated on July 25.

Through a partnership with Black Hawk College, the four-year program provides students the opportunity to receive not only classroom training, but also more than 7,000 hours of training at the factory.

"These were four years that were part of your life, your career. Don't let the opportunities and learning halt at the end of that page today," said Michael Miller, chairman of the apprenticeship committee.

Col. David J. Luders, commander of RIA-JMTC, also spoke at the ceremony and encouraged the graduates to never forget what a crucial role they have supporting the United States Military.

"Don't forget how you felt the first day you started this program. You have the important mission of making parts for weapons that have to work when the Soldiers need them the most," he said.

Luders congratulated the class and presented each of them with a commander's coin.

During her keynote speech, Tara Barney, chief executive officer of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, spoke a similar message to the class.

"The talents you are bringing to JMTC are so valuable to the way this country and community evolves and grows," Barney said.

Supporting the joint warfighter is a mission that initially drew many of the graduates to the Machinist Apprentice Program.

Justin Odvarko, a 2014 graduate, loves this mission and upheld a family legacy by completing the program. Odvarko's father worked at the factory in the tool and die department for many years.

"I joined the program because I wanted to learn a skilled trade and what better way than to support the Soldiers," Odvarko said.

Another 2014 graduate, Susan Somes, also has a family legacy tied to the program. Somes' brother-in-law, Matt Maginn, is a graduate and also sang the national anthem at the ceremony. She said he was the one who initially encouraged her to apply for the program.

Although she had no prior machining experience, Somes said she used to work at a craft store and always loved making things, as well as math. She added that the machinist apprentice program was the best of both worlds and has loved it ever since joining.

"I now get to be crafty and stand back and say look what I made. I can be proud of something I created," said Somes.

The program has more than 1,200 graduates and will continue to create highly-trained machinists for years to come.
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