L-687’s Sibley teaches Afghans to weld

Apprentice Thomas Sibley

Apprentice serves with South Carolina National Guard

SPECIALIST THOMAS SIBLEY, a third-period apprentice with Local 687 (Charleston, Heights, S.C.) didn’t figure on putting his welding skills to much use when his National Guard unit shipped out to Afghanistan in May 2007. A communications specialist with the 218th Brigade Combat Team, Sibley handles video teleconferencing assignments, linking his unit to others around the world.

But an engineering commander discovered that Sibley, 35, also has skills that are in high demand in Kabul, the Afghan capital. “I’m a certified tube welder,” Sibley said. “I learned to weld at a vocational school and also at the Army’s welding school. And I was an apprentice with Local 687 before my unit was called up.”

The commander asked Sibley to teach local Afghan construction workers how to do specific welds for the U.S. military. “Their welding skills weren’t up to par,” Sibley said, “so I stepped in for a couple of weeks and showed them how to do horizontal and vertical welds using 7018 rods.”

Sibley, who has served 11 years with the National Guard, said he plans to continue his apprenticeship with Local 687 when his unit returns to South Carolina, probably in May 2008.