Giants of Skilled Trades: Dustin Frantz, ATDM Student

The path of Dustin Frantz’s life has involved notable turns. He says his latest, which has led him to Danville, Virginia, is the one he is most excited about.

Dustin Frantz, ATDM Student

Frantz joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005 as a unit armorer. One of his four years in uniform was spent serving in the Iraq conflict, and it was in armory school that he first became interested in machining. Since his time in the military, he has owned a custom robotics company and has been a truck driver moving vehicle parts between the U.S. and Canada.

A major medical incident unfortunately led to Frantz losing his last job, his savings, and his house and property. While he was in recovery, a new path emerged via email: the Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing program in Danville. Through five-day-a-week education over four months, Frantz will wind up with the skills needed to earn a career in his chosen trade, CNC machining. Adults with a wide range of backgrounds train at ATDM. Many, like Frantz, are veterans seeking to serve their country in a new way: defense manufacturing.

An enthusiastic Frantz took a break from the fast track to skilled trades employment – something that will support himself, his wife, and their seven children – to provide perspective on his pursuit.

What made you want to get into the skilled trades?

I have long wanted to be a part of “making” something. Taking a piece of raw steel and turning it into a part that would be a part of something bigger and push forward our economy has always fired my imagination. It is awesome to work alongside other bedrock, foundational industries like electrical, plumbing, material sciences, engineers, inspectors, and more.

What specifically drew you to CNC machining, and what has excited you about it?

As a father of seven, I want to support my family as a sole breadwinner and allow my wife to pursue her interests and stay home with our children. Further, it fills the mind watching a piece of unformed aluminum or steel go from raw stock (something with no purpose) to a formed, tightly dimensioned, finished part that has purpose in some grander scheme.

How did your military service play into your decision to pursue a career in defense manufacturing?

When I joined the Marine Corps. I didn’t know what I wanted, except that I didn’t want to be so afraid anymore. The Marines needed an armorer and I was compliant. In Armory School, I loved working with sophisticated tools and measuring devices. I loved taking a weapon that did not work, applying my skill to it, and then having it work correctly. I really loved impressing my commanding officer, when he would say that no one could get “that” weapon working and then I would get it working!

Has your training so far made you realize you made the right decision?

Coming to school at Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing absolutely was the right decision. It has increased my value to society and consequently, society will increase its compensation to me (that’s a fancy way of saying “better job, better pay”). My instructor is more like a coach to me. He has high demands, but watching myself rise to his expectation empowers me for the future.

A woman sits with a calculator and paper at a desk. Another student stands at another table in the background.
Two men, a student and an instructor, stand and use a saw as part of a training session.
Two men, a student and an instructor, walk while reviewing a document in a warehouse. Three flags hang on the wall behind them. Equipment fills much of the room.

What characteristics do you see in yourself and your fellow students going down this career path?

In CNC machining, we are kept to very tight tolerances, meaning the deviation in size is measured often in thousandths of an inch. There is a great deal of personal pride when you keep that first part to that kind of spec. It takes a lot of work and practice, but the reward and feeling of accomplishment far exceeds the cost.

What would you tell someone who is looking at pursuing a skilled trades career today?

The very first thing I would say to someone wanting to pursue this path is “you can do it!” It will take effort, discipline, work, and dedication, but the reward is personal pride and a feeling of self-value and accomplishment. I have had a couple of pieces that I made mistakes on, and those became my biggest learning grounds. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, get back on the machine, and make it right!

What do you hope your legacy will be?

My 12-year-old son has been watching me make amazing parts and he has begun to use cardboard and masking tape to make his own parts. He disassembles everything we buy him and turns it into something else. His fellow classmates call him Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison. My legacy is instilling a love of work in my sons and self-respect in my daughters and leaving a country that, for them, will provide for their common defense, promote their general welfare and secure the blessing of liberty them and their posterity.

I want to sincerely thank Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing for this opportunity. ATDM, thank you for providing the education, and the environment to enable me to reach my highest potential. If a man is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with, then we truly are the best!

Visit the ATDM website for more information on training opportunities there. For more on career paths you can pursue in the Submarine Industrial Base, check out our special section here at

Written by:
Steve Fullhart, BlueForge Alliance

(Photos from ATDM)

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