By Howard Greninger
As a large crane lowers a cable, Nathan Leitch grabs a loop, attaching it to a steel truss.
Tribune-Star/Joseph C. GarzaRod busters at work: Ironworkers Local 22 members and Fort Wayne Reinforcing employees Brian Crocker of West Terre Haute and Caleb Hughes of Sullivan tie rebar on the site of the new Sullivan County Jail on Aug. 25 in Sullivan.
He then attaches some smaller cross bars to be tightened when the truss is lowered into place to form a ceiling for an addition at the New Life Fellowship church in Seelyville.
Leitch's belt holds a crescent spud wrench, which instead of a long handle, features a round, tapered tang.
"It helps to line up bolt holes," Leitch said.
Other tools Leitch often uses include a sleever bar, which gives extra leverage when positioning steel trusses or beams to align bolt holes; a "beater" hammer; and bull pins used when two pieces of metal to be bolted together don't line up. The pin is inserted or even pounded if needed until the pieces align, he said.
Leitch, 23, is a third-year apprentice with the Ironworkers Local No. 22, working for Misco Crane Services. Apprentices undergo a four-year training, with on-the-job experience as well as classroom work.
He was born in Terre Haute and is a 2017 graduate of Marshall (Illinois) High School and a 2019 graduate of Parkland College with an associates degree in applied science in a Ford automotive program.
"Straight out of high school I went to college for automotive for a while," he said. "I worked while in college, and about six months after graduating I ended up joining the ironworkers.
"Once I decided that working on cars wasn't for me, I started asking around. I heard a lot of things about the ironworkers and had a few guys I knew who were in the ironworkers, so I decided to put in an application and got accepted," Leitch said.
Leitch said he feels it was the right decision, saying he plans to work 30 years or more and retire in the union.
"Walking the steel is probably one of my favorite parts," he said. "It is kind of an adrenaline rush. We are tied off and have a lot of safety. And how far safety has progressed is one great thing about it."
Additionally, he enjoys working with fellow ironworkers.
"There is definitely a brotherhood and it is nice knowing you are part of something that you can see and look at different projects you helped to build," he said. "It is kind of a pride thing."
Leitch worked on the downtown Terre Haute Convention Center, one of his first large scale projects.
"I learned a lot and going from a small job to a big job, it is just a different world," Leitch said. "You have more technical work and just have to go through your checklist and make sure everything is done and in sequence, and that it is done right, or you will have to go back and do it all over again."
A long history
Terre Haute's ironworkers union started in 1929.
Ironworkers Local No. 439 was chartered on Sept. 11, 1929. Like many other unions, it was consolidated into a larger district.
In 2008, three separate unions from Indianapolis, Lafayette and Terre Haute were joined into Ironworkers Local Union No. 22, which had its origins in Indianapolis in 1901.
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