Trade Warriors Accept a New Mission in HVAC
A program known for helping members of the military find their next career – and often their next employer – started its second year in existence by celebrating several firsts.
In January 2023, Trade Warriors began training its seventh cohort at a new location - a classroom on the Fort Bragg military base. In addition, among those graduating with the class in March were the first two females in the program - Rosheen Pennant and Talia Tavares Moreno.
Trade Warriors is an 8-week program that provides more than 300 hours of hands-on HVAC training for active-duty service members who are within 6 months of separation from the services, or current veterans, with the goal of employment as an HVAC service tech or service installer at a Trane dealer.
The program aims to facilitate new career options for military veterans while bolstering the ranks of qualified HVAC technicians in the industry.
“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.”
Rosheen Pennant: Digging Deeper as 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 Women in the Service
“Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be in the army,” says Talia. Her route to get there was a bit complicated: 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. With her family 3,300 miles 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.”
Talia also hopes to serve as an inspiration for fellow women service members. “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.”
HVAC Careers for Service Members: Independence, Purpose, and Growth
Having graduated from the program, Talia is in the process of transferring her National Guard service from Massachusetts to Florida, where she has an HVAC job starting in May. Long term, Talia plans to run her own enterprise. “I feel like this is a great era to start your own business,” she says. “I'm young, and I can go to school to learn the business management part. With my skills and experience, after I work for a certain time, I think I can pull it off.”
For service members approaching the end of their contracts, or current veterans seeking a new career path, Talia offered this insight into the benefits of the Trade Warriors program.
Talia is looking forward to the independence of her new career. “In the army, you have a chain of command, and you won't leave until they'll tell you to leave,” Talia says. “But in HVAC, it’s different. You have a task to be done, you may have some late calls and things like that. But when it's complete, you go home and manage your time however you want.”