EASTOVER, S.C. - They are among the first mobilized during disaster response or in combat, and leaders who plan logistics know without their support, missions abruptly come to halt. These are the Motor Vehicle Transport operators, the Soldiers who drive trucks to transport everything from troops or supplies, to large items such as other vehicles.
The 4th Battalion, 218th Regiment Training Institute (RTI) in the South Carolina National Guard, kicked off its final 88M (Motor Vehicle Transport Operator) reclassification course at the McCrady Training Center, part of Fort Jackson property in Eastover, South Carolina, Jan. 20. Based on RTI restructuring around the nation, the South Carolina National Guard's 4th Battalion at the RTI is scheduled to stop teaching the 88M beginning in fiscal year 2019.
"We've been like a family out here,” said Sgt. First Class Charles Farthing, the 88M10 Course Manager for 4th Battalion, 218th RTI. "We have an incredible amount of knowledge with our instructor base and it's hard to see it coming to an end.”
The four-week reclassification course is taught in two phases. This particular class had Soldiers from North Carolina, Georgia, and Utah, from both the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, with a planned graduation date of Feb. 17.
"During the first week, we began with straight line backing, ally docking and right and left hand turns using a 5-ton cargo truck,” said Farthing. "These exercises teach the Soldier how to maneuver the vehicle safely during scenarios such as a docking situation, both with straight and curved routes, and moving the vehicle on roadways, keeping situational awareness of distances on the right and left."
According to Farthing, who has worked with the 88M course since 2009, it's important for drivers to practice turns to keep a proper distance from curbs and not to go into other lanes. During the course, they work on every important detail from proper seat belt use, to preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS) to driving on hardball roads and tank trails.”
"Safety is always the most important component we stress to the students,” said Farthing.
On day four of the training on Jan. 24, the students practiced the skills they learned in the classroom on the open dirt training area at McCrady.
"I feel awesome. I can now PMCS a truck myself," said Spc. Linda Martinez, a student from the 941st Transportation Company, U.S. Army Reserves. "I was previously a cook on active duty and this was the first time I was able to drive a cargo truck and learn about it."
Farthing said it is always rewarding to see how with each day of instruction, the confidence of the students grows and they pick up more and more. He added when he looks back at the over 20 iterations of the 88M course he's supported, it's the impact on the students he will never forget.
"We meet Soldiers who say they have never driven a large truck and they tell you they feel like they can't do it,” said Farthing. "At the end of the course after they've passed everything, seeing their pride and sense of accomplishment is truly the joy of teaching."