Success Stories

Heidi, Class of 2016

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Heidi Came to Workshops for Warriors Because She Plans to Go Back to School to Earn Her Heavy Equipment Degree; A Career Where Welding is Crucial

Heidi was enlisted in the Marine Corps for 5.5 years with tours in Okinawa, Japan and Korea. Heidi actually volunteered to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, but her unit ended up getting deployed to Iraq just after she got out of the Military. Despite the disappointment, she enjoyed her time in the Military as an F18 aircraft mechanic.

“I was an F18 aircraft mechanic, so I did hydraulics and structure—moving flight surfaces and the hydraulic servos that actuate them, move them up and down, left and right, landing gear, painting them. My dad was a mechanic so I knew I liked fixing things. I joined right out of High School so I didn’t really have experience doing much. I thought airplanes are cool, jets are cool, so let’s do that.”

Heidi actually continued working in the exact same hanger as a contract aircraft mechanic in the Marine Corps even after she transitioned out of the Military. After she realized that the job wasn’t what she wanted anymore, she enrolled in Miramar college into their Diesel Mechanics program and get her associates degree in diesel technology and heavy duty trucks.

Heidi currently works for EW truck & Equipment Company, but knew welding would help her career overall. Fortunately for Heidi, her supervisor is supportive of Heidi attending Workshops for Warriors because he knows welding skills are a huge asset for mechanics to have.

“My boss is okay that I have to take off a little bit of time and not work the full 8 hour days because I’m going to school. It’s making me a more valuable employee, which is fantastic. Just two weeks ago my boss had me weld up a bracket for an AC system that I was installing because he knew I was going to school.”

Once Heidi gets her qualifications at Workshops for Warriors, she plans to eventually go back to school to get her heavy equipment degree, and explained that with this degree you absolutely have to know how to weld. This is actually what prompted her to find Workshops for Warriors in the first place.

For Heidi, it was helpful moving from the Military to a job as a contractor for the Marine Corps, and she explained that Workshops for Warriors offers that same comfort.

“It was actually good that I went to contracting from being straight out of the Military because it was all Military people, so you have all the former Military folk, then you have people who have been out for a little while and act like civilians now. You kind of got to learn slowly how to act like a civilian again. It works well at Workshops too.” She added, “It’s the same kind of dynamic. Honestly the field that I chose is a lot like the Military in some respects, so that would be a lot easier of transition vs. me trying to go to an office job or something.”

Heidi left the Military because at the time it was not legal for her to be gay. She explained that some of her unit knew and some didn’t, and after five years she had enough of feeling like she couldn’t be herself.

“I was sick and tired of hiding, and such a big portion of my life. Everybody got to come back from deployment and hug their boyfriends or girlfriends at the terminal and I couldn’t. I had a couple of close friends I could be myself around, but and eventually I thought I’m done.”

Fortunately, being a female Veteran has been more about support than having to put on any kind of act like she felt she had to while in uniform.

“As a female Veteran when you get out you don’t have the comradery with the guys that you used to. Being back here, making friends and contacts, things of that nature, it’s fun. I love welding, and sometimes it’s super frustrating, sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes I want to quit, but for the most part I love it. When you find something you love to do you have to stick with it, knuckle down, listen, work, and put in the time.”