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Fort Devens


Story by SGT Hector Rene Membreno-Canales on 09/05/2019

What Army Reserve Soldiers do outside of battle assembly can reveal a lot about how they will lead while on duty.

For Sgt. William E. Berard, a Signal Supports Systems Specialist assigned to Army Reserve Element Europe Command, Ft. Devens, this couldn’t be truer.

“I love building things,” said Berard. “My father was a carpenter and I grew up building houses with him.”

The Dracut Massachusetts native, who operates a wood working studio in Lowell Massachusetts under the pseudonym Mill City Wood Smith, hand crafts furniture, mechanical pencils, bolt action pens, bottle openers, letter openers, rings, bowls, wine topper’s and much more.

“Everything I make is hand crafted and done with precision,” Said Berard.
Berard prefers working within the intricacies of small detail-oriented pieces more than the large-scale carpentry he picked up from his father.
“Whether I’m working in uniform or working in the carpentry studio, problem solving is the same,” explains Berard. “Both require patience because you start with a problem and work your way back to develop a solution, one step at a time.”

Berard describes his process as sourcing materials made from buffalo horn, brass, stone, wood, resin, acrylic and incandescent materials that glow in the dark.

He once made a handle from a potpourri pinecone; he explains with a smile.

“I’ll start with a block of raw material,” he said. “Then I’ll drill a hole in the center of it and spend anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes shaping it.”

The hardest part for Berard was learning the value of taking his time.

“When you rush any project, you risk cracking and shattering material,” said Berard. “When something breaks, it could be upwards of $40 in material loss. That frustration has trained me to take things nice and easy.”

Berard describes working in the woodshop as very similar to working on any project while on duty as an Army Reserve Soldier.

“Similar to working [at USARE EUCOM], different materials work differently, together,” he said. “Some complement each other, and some don’t, just like soldiers, but with patience and finesse, you can combine them to make something that is very functional and stronger together.”

Like training in the Army Reserve, you may start out with an unrefined raw material or skill, but with enough attention to detail and perseverance to succeed, you can create and learn something new.
“Universal to serving in [the Army Reserve] and wood working is the direct role I have in the quality of an end product,” Berard concludes.

U.S. ARE EUCOM provides timely support to the combatant command and enhances its ability to conduct military operations. The more than 160 members of the unit provide international and interagency partnering to enhance transatlantic security and defend the United States forward.

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