Brad openly shares his personal struggles in re-making his life after leaving the military. “I know that if I’ve been in this, someone else out there is in a similar situation. I’m telling my story so that someone with the same problems will take heart and have hope.”
Being in the military is about being part of a team. One day I was out, and the team wasn’t there anymore. It’s hard to maintain the brotherhood and camaraderie you had, when your friends are stationed all around the world.
I designed and repaired aircraft—even fabricating aircraft with metals, plastics, composites and bonded structural parts and components. Late in 2008, I was deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Before leaving the military, I attained the rank of Staff Sergeant.
I was taught to keep my head down and grind through bad times. I believed if I could make it through those tough times in the military, I could get through anything in life. But returning home after 8 years in the military, I wasn’t prepared to be back in civilian life.
My struggles with alcohol began while serving in the military. I tried to quit drinking, but during 2013, I wound up drunk and in a Florida jail. I told myself, ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ After being Honorably Discharged, I moved from Florida to Idaho, to live with my wife and kids. Trying to work out my marriage, I quit drinking—I poured everything out. When I couldn’t make my marriage work, I moved back home to Massachusetts, where I had grown up. The only way to turn things around is to have a support system. Thankfully, with my family’s support, I am sober now.
I just didn’t know how to get a foot in the door. As a kid, I was interested in dirt bikes and motorcycles, but didn’t have the money for them. After I was discharged from the military, I tinkered with a four-wheeler and with dirt bikes. I applied to dealerships; without training or experience, they wouldn’t hire me.
I was unhappy working as a machinist in a production shop. The work was repetitive and I wasn’t given room to grow. I wanted new challenges—new problems to solve every day; I wanted to make a living working on bikes. I knew there were big schools in Florida and Arizona that offered training in motorcycle mechanics. Searching online, I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I found MTTI’s website. ‘No way! There is a school practically around the corner from where I live—and it accepts military benefits!’
I had finally decided to go back to school, and everything was shutting down! From March until August, I nervously waited to know whether the class would start during September. What an amazing feeling, when I got the go-ahead that the class would start on schedule. Later, whenever the Admissions Rep, Cheryl, toured prospective students through the shop, I would tell them, ‘Don’t even think about whether to come here—just do it.’
Coming to MTTI provided a good support system for me. I felt that sense of camaraderie I had been missing. If I wasn’t getting a subject, another student would say, “let’s figure it out together.” In the Motorcycle / Power Equipment program, we all have a common ground. We all like things that ‘go fast’.
What he will forget about bikes is more than I will ever be able to remember. Especially because I have a color vision deficiency, I would freeze up when reading wiring diagrams. Gary helped me gain confidence in reading them. He taught me tips that help me out now in the field—especially how not to get overwhelmed when tracking down multiple issues.
Gary would say, “let’s do this.” Early in the program, Gary worked with me one-on-one for 45 minutes, to help me better understand transmissions–then it clicked for me. He is not just a teacher going through the motions–he loves this stuff. It’s so much easier to wake up and come to class when your instructor likes what he is teaching and makes learning fun!
Not being able to test bikes out on the road made finding an internship challenging. Shops were interested in me, managers said they would call; but I then I wouldn’t hear from them. Gary told me he would love to have me at Bettencourt’s, where he has been working for more than 35 years. He said, “I can get you an internship, but it is up to you to apply yourself and get the job.”
I’m so happy that I took Gary up on his offer of internship. How can you beat working for Bettencourt’s? You get to work on bikes and then ride them at the end of the day. The people I work with here are awesome. I’m learning so much—both on the business and the mechanical side. Working alongside Gary after graduation has been like having an added semester at school.
This school really puts forth the effort to get you a job, doing something you enjoy. They go above and beyond in helping you make contact with employers. Erin, the Career Service Specialist was great. She helped me, one-on-one, write a resume and practice for interviews.
Most of the time, we were too busy working in the shop—and our hands were too greasy—to take pictures of our work. We were excited when the photos were posted; we’d say to one another, ‘Hey, I saw your picture on MTTI’s Facebook.’ Now we have photos documenting the work we did—and a reminder of our time together in the program.
I was never one for school—I didn’t do well in the past. I was super nervous to start jumping into something new, but everyone at MTTI made it easy. MTTI is a pretty great community—you can’t ask for more. Even if COVID threw a wrench into the program, what we did on Zoom was actually a cool experience. Once we were back in the shop, I loved coming to school every day to learn in such a hands-on class. We were encouraged to bring in our own projects to work on, provided they fit within the curriculum. I built a dirt bike while I was here—even put the motor in.
I only wish I had gone to school sooner. A month into school, my girlfriend, who I have been dating for 3 years, said, “This is the happiest I’ve seen you.” I put a lot of work into the program, but it has been a happy transition from going to school, to working at Bettencourt’s. Facing my personal struggles is finally paying off. You can’t run from your past mistakes. But you can find support from family and friends who care about you, and camaraderie with people who share your passions. You can make a very happy life.
Spotlight: Brad & Gary In Bettencourt’s Service Shop
Top Left: Brad Test Riding the Bike He Worked On at Bettencourt’s
Top Right: Brad On-The-Job at Bettencourt’s
Lower Left: Gary & Brad at Bettencourt’s
Lower Right: Brad While Still A Student, Working on a Bike In MTTI’s Shop