BRYAN, TEXAS – Twelve military veterans have reached new heights in a career with upward mobility by training to become a Tower Technician. The veterans graduated July 20 from the Tower Technician course offered by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in conjunction with Warriors 4 Wireless (W4W).
The graduates, who completed the 120-hour program at The Texas A&M University System’s RELLIS campus in Bryan, all had job offers before they had completed their training.
Trained tower climbers are in high demand as technology companies move toward fifth-generation cellular wireless, or 5G. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has dubbed them the “unsung heroes of the digital revolution.”
“I tell them money grows on steel trees,” said Tower Technician Instructor Robert McKenzie. “All you have to do is climb up there and get it. You can go anywhere and get a job.”
The Tower Technician Level One course prepares students for a physically challenging career installing and maintaining wireless communications towers. To pass the course, students must be capable of climbing to heights in excess of 100 feet while carrying 70 pounds of tools and equipment. Earlier this month, the veterans climbed a 200-foot cell tower as part of their “final exam.”
The course emphasizes safety and hazard awareness, basic rigging and gin pole principles, capstan hoist, crane spotter and signaling, as well as the fundamentals of electromagnetic energy (EME) radio frequency. Graduates are eligible for the Tower Apprentice Program supported by industry hiring partners, where they may become a member of a four-person team to help deploy the next generation of 5G Wireless Networks.
The graduates earned leading industry certifications, including Competent Climber, Tower Rescue, Basic Rigging, Capstan Hoist, RF Awareness and other technical certifications, McKenzie said. In addition, the graduates were awarded their OSHA 10-hour card and a certification of completion from Safety LMS.
The training program is approved for VA education benefits, and is also held in conjunction with Warriors 4 Wireless (W4W), which provides military veterans with training, advanced certification and other support leading to new careers in the telecommunications industry.
Several of the veterans, like Jordan Cooper, said they had “struggled to find a new career” before they looked into becoming a tower climber. “It’s a growing field and provides a lot of room for advancement,” Jordan said. “I like the thrill of climbing. It’s safe as long as you do what you’re supposed to do. I loved the class and working with the guys. It’s a positive experience for vets trying to find their way.”
Sheldon Richardson, after a 10-year career in the U.S. Army, completed a basic electrician course, before he checked into what was involved in becoming a Tower Technician. “I could see myself doing that. I like the outdoors, and I like the thrill of climbing and the travel involved.”
Christopher Clayton agreed. “I was looking for a job with more financial and career stability. I’m glad I followed through on the training. The instructors are great – they made us comfortable from Day 1. The instructors have hand-on experience themselves and helped us understand (the technical skills). That brought comfort and built our confidence. People here will help you every step of the way. And there is nothing better than to know when you leave here, you can get a job.”
Read more about other TEEX programs approved for Veterans Education Benefits.