FORT LEE, Va. -- The Transportation School conducted a pilot program at Fort Lee in early August to give Soldiers additional training that will assist them with their transition out of the service.
Recently, focus was brought on veterans who transition out of the military and can't locate work. So, many organizations within the Army are focusing on credentials that transfer to the civilian job market, and the Trans School believes it has found a way to get its Soldiers prepared for the next step.
"Several military occupational specialties that had the highest unemployment rate were looked at and one of them identified was 88 Mikes (motor transport operator)," said Jeffrey E. Skinner, chief of the Army Drivers Standardization Office. "The Virginia governor asked how he could help those veterans get their civilian driver's license to transfer easier. He asked his Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner to work with us to find a solution."
The only thing that stops a military truck driver from transitioning into the civilian world is a CDL, said Skinner.
"So we had a meeting with the DMV and coordinated a waiver for our 88 Mikes," said Skinner. "Virginia is now one of 22 states that offer the waiver to allow 88 Mikes to receive their CDL through this program."
The waiver allows any Soldier with more than two years of documented driving experience on a particular vehicle to test for the CDL. However, the Virginia DMV wanted to do more. Some Soldiers may have a lot of driving experience, but not enough for the waiver, said Skinner.
So, the Trans Corps is putting effort into a pilot program that gives transitioning Soldiers a condensed course in commercial driving to assist them with earning a commercial driving license. A CDL is mandatory for many jobs in the civilian sector and even includes jobs outside of the trucking industry.
"This program helps our fellow logisticians -- our quartermaster or ordnance Soldiers," said Skinner. "We are assisting Fort Lee with training Soldiers who need to get over that training hump so they can earn a CDL. This is for transitioning Soldiers who are looking for a job in that field or for a job that may require a CDL."
Fort Lee is the first in the state to push this new pilot program. Marine Corps Base Quantico and Fort Pickett are working to get the program started.
Basically, the program gives the Soldiers several weeks of condensed training to prepare for their CDL written and driving tests. Several days are spent learning the rules and regulations for the written portion. Since the program requires some documented driving experience with large vehicles, the Soldiers get more than a week of driver refresher training. They practice parking maneuvers and driving on I-95.
After their training is complete, Andrew Williams, the senior licensing instructor manager of the 508th Transportation Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade, gives the students a driving exam that is accepted by the VA DMV. Williams is a state-certified third-party CDL tester.
The two Soldiers who participated in the pilot are mortuary affairs Soldiers who are retiring later this year. Sgts. 1st Class Matthew Caster and Bertram Council both serve in the 111th QM Co., 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 49th QM Group.
"This course was a great opportunity to add a CDL to my resume," said Caster. "Before I heard about the course, others suggested to me to get a CDL permit at least for my transition into the civilian sector, and now I'll have the opportunity to get an license."