Bridge to Success

  • Published
  • By Airman Colleen Coulthard
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Every service member will leave the military at some point in their career, but for many, the choice can feel daunting. Senior Airman James Hartwick, 33rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment technician, spent the last three years working on equipment that supports the maintenance of the F-35A Lightning II.

“I joined right after high school with my wife,'' said Hartwick. “My grandpa was in the Air Force and she had family serving; we figured it would be a great start to our lives.”

When his friend and coworker shared their skill bridge experience, he started investigating.

“The process is pretty straightforward,” Hartwick said. “First, starting with a business or job you are interested in and then seeing if the owners are on board with the program, getting approval from the education office, and filing all the necessary paperwork.”

For Hartwick, a position at a local auto shop made sense. He could keep his hands in mechanics, enjoy military benefits, and work toward his own business.

“I have always been a hot-rodder. My dad got me started on go-karts, and it kept getting bigger from a go-kart to an ATV, from an ATV to a car, and now, I have 10 cars,” said Hartwick. “I used all the military professionalism from the customers coming to the AGE shop and applied it there, to help people feel comfortable.”

Hartwick’s friend, Senior Airman Jordan Haley, a former 33rd FW AGE technician, said the DoD SkillBridge program allowed him to join the police academy, switch to the National Guard, and ease the transition from military to civilian.

“I joined to find some direction and jumpstart my life,” said Haley. “I decided to get out because I wanted a better family life, move less frequently, and be closer to my kids' grandparents.”

Haley was able to secure a National Guard position as an AGE technician at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, earn his preliminary credentials, and start his job as a patrol deputy for the Harrison County Sheriff's Office.

“If someone is worried about how they think they’ll do in the civilian sector, this will give you that clarity, '' said Hartwick. “I thought I wouldn’t be successful, but I realized that I could do well.”

For more information on SkillBridge and available, visit: