March 23, 2010

183rd RTI helps Soldiers to keep on truckin'

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Soldiers from across the nation graduated from the 88M10 Reclassification Course March 20 at Fort Pickett taught by the Soldier-instructors from the Virginia Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.

  183rd RTI conducts truck driving course

A student in the 88M10 reclassification course at Fort Pickett, Va. adjusts the mirror on a M915 Tractor Trailer before taking the final road test March 18. The Students drive a 200 mile convoy along interstates 85 and 95 as part of their final test. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos

The 18 students completed the two-week second phase of the Army course designed to transform Soldiers who have already completed their basic training and advanced individual training and held other duty positions. With the completion of the course, the Soldiers are awarded the military occupational specialty of 88M, or motor transport operator.

“What we do is take Soldiers who have already been through AIT, and we’re reclassifying them as [truck drivers],” said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Flynn, a senior instructor at the RTI. “So then when they go back to their unit they can have them go through driver’s training and license them on whatever trucks they have in their unit.”

During the first phase of the course students focus on accident avoidance and basic driving courses leading up to driving 5-ton trucks on the roads and through an improvised explosive device reaction lane.

“We take them through an IED range; we teach them some combat maneuvers that you would do in a convoy,” said Flynn. “We do take them out on a 120-mile convoy. We take them out to the ranges and show them what the trucks are capable of doing. We do inclines; we take them through the mud, all kinds of different scenarios.”

After the Soldiers graduate the first phase, many students enter the second phase consecutively to lessen time away from their units and civilian jobs throughout the year, according to Flynn.

Phase two begins with several days of classroom time where Soldiers focus on the fundamentals before moving to the training area at the Fort Pickett flight line where they practice driving the M915-A3 semi-truck and trailer.

“We let them drive a little bit and back up [the trucks] before they take them out on the roads,” said Staff Sgt. James Chalmers, an 88M instructor.

In the two weeks the Soldiers spend in phase two, they learn how to drive the M915s, focus on long-haul driving (the students log around 500 miles driving around post and on I-95 and I-85). The students are also trained  to drive and operate the heavy expanded mobility tactical truck palletized loading systems.

“We teach them how to load and unload the flat-rack on to the truck and on to the trailer,” noted Flynn. “We take the 915s on a 200-mile convoy and it gets them used to [moving] in and out of traffic with a 40-foot trailer. You name it; we do it with these trucks.”

  183rd RTI conducts truck driving course

Instructors at the 2nd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute make sure the students in the 88M10 reclassification course conduct their pre-convoy checks and services before conducting their final test March 18 at Fort Pickett, Va. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos

With some artillery units in recent history being restructured into transportation units, many Soldiers are becoming reclassified to truck drivers to ensure they still have a role in the Army.

“When we restructured, they reclassified me as an 88M,” said Spc. Thurman Rhineheart, a student from the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company. “But I love it, it’s fun. I ain’t walking, I’m riding and that’s a big bonus and I enjoy that.”

The graduates will take valuable skills back to their units. In an Army engaged in two concurrent wars, the role of the Army truck driver proves invaluable in bringing the supplies and personnel required to sustain the Soldiers deployed around the world.

“I feel like we give them one of the best classes in the nation. We give them more time on the road,” boasted Flynn. “We get them out there on the road and actually do a convoy. We actually show them what an IED looks like and what it’s going to be like when it goes off. We give some realistic training. It’s pretty high-speed stuff!’

“They know what to expect. We feel like they are better trained Soldiers based on what training we give them to sustain the fight.”

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