November 2015

From Soldier to Union Ironworker: A Helmets to Hardhats Journey

Staff Sergeant Ronny Parayno spent nine years in the United States Army. Sergeant Parayno learned three very important skills during his service in the Army: teamwork, resourcefulness and self-discipline. The Army emphasizes these three skills in order to help individuals set small goals for themselves and overcome obstacles in their way preventing them from achieving their goals. 

Once his enlistment ended, Ronny enrolled in college courses at the public university in Anchorage, Alaska. His next three goals were to earn a college education, find a career and start a family. But after he earned his college degree, he found it was difficult for him to find the job he really wanted.

Ronny kept noticing an organization by the name of Helmets to Hardhats was continuously advertising skilled trade apprenticeships on Facebook. Twitter was providing updated news and information about construction jobs and success stories regarding military people like himself finding rewarding careers in the skilled trades after being discharged.

Parayno found the right opportunity at Local 63 in Chicago where he is now an apprentice working for Industrial Fence Inc. (IFI), a signatory fence contractor with Local 63. “Ironwork is a perfect fit for my skill set,” says Ronny. “My on-the-job training exposes me to practical job applications.” Using the skill sets he learned in the Army “puts me in a position to adapt a sense of team mindedness for safety, a sense of resourcefulness to overcome the physical demands and the self-discipline to make things happen,” states Parayno.

When asked to name the top three benefits of joining the Iron Workers Union, Ronny gave us this: 

• Wage equality – Gaining employment though the union provides a good wage.

• Fringe benefits – A unionized workforce sets higher standards for health, dental, pension and an overall quality of life.

• Solidarity – As a union member, he’s part of an international organization where each person on his left and right is called a brother or sister.

IFI is a signatory contractor with Local 63 in Chicago and currently employs over 50 union ironworkers. The company is owned and operated by Mike Saltijeral. Mike is a United States Marine and received high expeditionary and commendation medals for his duty in Panama and the Persian Gulf War. When he returned to Chicago after his military service, he entered the construction industry and started Industrial Fence in 1999. We thank Mike for his service to our country and his innovation to not only be a business owner but, to be a signatory employer as well.

We are proud to have brother Ronny Parayno as a member of Local 63 and our great International Union. He is another outstanding success story of Helmets to Hardhats transitioning quality people from the military to union ironworker.

If you’re looking for a career, you’re in the right place. Helmets to Hardhats connects quality men and women from the Armed Forces with promising building and construction careers. Visit for more information.