The Army National Guard’s “Drive the Guard” program is putting Soldiers behind the wheel while they are in uniform and helping them to qualify for fulltime civilian employment as a truck driver.
The program gives Army Guard members the opportunity to attend an approved truck driving school within their state, and upon graduation they receive a commercial driver's license and guaranteed employment, said Lt. Col. Ron Walls, chief of the Army National Guard’s Strength Maintenance Division.
The program, first launched in May, is open to both those currently serving and as an enlistment option for those considering joining the Army Guard.
However, in order to qualify for the program, several criteria must be met by the Guardmember. They must have a valid driver’s license, be a U.S. citizen and pass a physical exam “and be able to meet the moral and legal requirements for an Army National Guard enlistment,” said Walls.
In addition, Soldiers must complete basic and advanced individual training prior to attending truck driving school, be over 21 and have a clean driving record.
While attending school, Soldiers are required to drill with their unit.
The program is an outgrowth of an earlier initiative that focused on providing deploying units with qualified and trained truck drivers, said Walls. It provided the means for those holding the military occupational specialty (MOS) of motor transport operator, or Army truck driver, to receive their civilian commercial license as well.
“What it morphed into, essentially, with a collaboration with the trucking industry and the support of the leadership, was the opportunity to provide it to not only prior service (Soldiers) but to non-prior service and to open it up to any MOS,” said Walls.
The program grew in scope with collaboration of the trucking industry and support from leadership, said Walls. It’s now open to new recruits and Soldiers with any MOS, said Walls.
There are plans underway to expand the program’s benefits, such as bringing a Soldier on temporary state active duty orders for the duration of the truck driving schooling, which would ensure that the Soldier has a fulltime paycheck while attending school, said Walls.
“The end result is you have an Army National Guard drilling Soldier who is duty-MOS qualified and also has a fulltime job,” said Walls.
And the program may see an expansion into other career fields as well.
“Right now, it’s a pilot program,” said Walls. “If it continues to be successful, then that may be something we are looking to in the future to broaden our community-based programs.”