Military Apprenticeship Program Helps Former Sailor Transition to Truck Driver Trainer
Note: Are you a military vet who has what it takes to train other drivers about how to become a professional truck driver?
Approved by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Labor, Transport America’s Certified Professional Truck Driver Program helps eligible veterans use their G.I. Bill benefits that they earned in the military to advance from a student driver to a driver instructor and/or a student driver instructor. This hands-on training program incorporates concepts core to the military – leading by example, safety, and preparation through training.
We’re proud to share Tracy Garrett’s story as she begins the process of becoming a driver instructor through Transport America’s Military Apprenticeship Program. To learn more about this program, click here or call 651-688-4580.
Tracy Garrett’s Story: Finding a Home with Transport America
After serving in the Navy for seven years, Tracy Garrett, like many military vets, faced the prospect of change.
As in: “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
To add to the complexity of her situation, she was a single mom with two teenagers.
Like many vets, she decided to take advantage of her G.I. Bill benefits and returned to school with her eyes set on a new career in the business world.
But deep down, there was this little voice calling out to Tracy.
“As a little girl, I used to ride in a pick-up truck with my mother, Linda Hanewald,” Tracy says. “My mom used to be a test driver for Michigan International Speedway (in Brooklyn, Mich.). She would transport the test cars with a pick-up truck and trailer from the Speedway to other test tracks.”
“On those trips, I remember her being on the CB radio talking to truck drivers,” adds Tracy. “As we would come up to a driver, she would ask them to honk their horn for me, her little daughter. I remember thinking that one day, I would like to be a truck driver.”
Back in her hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Tracy earned her college degree and found herself working in the front office of a local trucking company.
“I worked there for nearly two years,” she says. “I kept finding myself drawn to the shop – talking to the mechanics and the other drivers.”
It’s then that she realized that she had to follow her dream of being a truck driver.
With her children out of high school, she finally acted. Tracy entered a CDL training program at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to begin her journey as a professional truck driver.
Stationed on the USS Kearsarge, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship within the United States Navy, Tracy, who served as a work center supervisor, recognizes similarities between the two professions — the need for order, discipline, organization, respect, and safety.
While in school, studying for her CDL with her G.I. Bill benefits, she learned about Transport America’s Military Apprenticeship program, ironically, from a female driver who drove for a competitive trucking company.
“I remember her saying, ‘You should check out Transport America, they’re more respectful of truck drivers, especially women truck drivers.’” says Tracy. “So I did.”
What’s cool is that Tracy connected with Claudette Forbes, a Transport America recruiter who also served in the military.
“Claudette understood when I said that I’ll miss being ‘deployed,” Tracy says. “She got it.”
Now, on the road, Tracy is learning life as a truck driver with the intent of preparing to be a driver instructor within a year.
“I’ve learned that life in a truck is really not all that much different than life on a ship,” she says. “You don’t get to shower every day and you live in close quarters. Heck, there’s more room in a truck actually, so this feels like a luxury.”
Asked what does it take for a military vet to make the move back into civilian life, Tracy says it’s all about mindset.
“To me, it really does boil down to safety. It’s what we’re taught in the military, and I see, from my experience with Transport America so far, it’s what really matters in terms of being a truck driver,” she says. “Being the captain of your own ship is really important to me.”
Tracy says it also takes support from home. She points to the support provided by her mother in helping to raise her two kids who are now 18 and 19.
“It’s all about determination and integrity,” Tracy says. “That’s what I’ve learned. If I can do this, you can do it.”