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From Marine Corps field artillery to multiple job offers as a machinist

Originally from Trenton, NJ, Mahki Butler enlisted in the Marine Corps straight out of high school.

As his service in field artillery was ending, Butler was looking for new pathways to a civilian career. He first heard of the Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing program (ATDM) from his staff sergeant. After further research, Butler learned that Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining careers were in high demand and decided to try out training for himself on ATDM’s campus in Danville, Virginia.

ATDM provides training in high-demand skills that lead to well-paying jobs with military suppliers. Qualified Veterans receive a full scholarship and housing for the 16-week program. There they will learn the trades of additive manufacturing, CNC machining, non-destructive testing, quality control inspection (metrology) and welding.

“CNC machining is fun if you like numbers combined with hands-on work,” said Butler. “It’s meticulous. You’re learning how to read blueprints and drawings, with a bit of trigonometry thrown in the mix. It can be challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s second nature. You make quality parts that are up to code, which can be a tedious trial-and-error process. It’s incredibly satisfying when you get it right.”

Butler has always been fascinated with design and manufacturing, but he never dove too deep into the process until his time at ATDM. Now, he says he looks at life from a different perspective, seeing trigonometry and synergy everywhere.

When asked about the transition from his previous career, Butler says discipline, consistency and community are key. He found all three at ATDM.

“You have people around you who believe in you and can help you along the way,” he said. “ATDM is for everyone. Anyone can succeed in this program, especially with the help that we have from the staff and instructors and the camaraderie of your cohort pushing you to do better as a team.”

Butler graduated in February 2024 with multiple job offers.

More qualified workers are needed to build the submarines that are vital to our nation’s defense. You can learn new skills for a new career in weeks, not years.

How to apply to ATDM


Select “Apply.”

Complete the easy enrollment application.

Select “Submit” and step closer to new opportunities.

ATDM is located on the campus of the Institute of Advanced Learning and Research in Virginia.

The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on the part of VA. Veterans should verify the information with the organization offering.

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