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License to Drive

License to Drive


U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

I was an 18-year-old private when I arrived at my first duty station at Camp Casey, South Korea, in the fall of 1996. Shortly after reporting, my leadership sent me to the 40-hour driver training course managed by the installation. Several days after completing the first phase of the course, I learned my unit was about to depart on a training exercise. I also discovered we had a severe shortage of licensed operators.

In response to that shortage, my section leader brought me to the company master driver to complete the second phase of my licensing process. As we walked up to the gate of the motor pool, the weathered NCO looked at me and asked, “Well, can you drive?” My response was typical of an 18-year-old kid: “Of course I can drive, sergeant!” I couldn’t think of any other answer. After all, my first car was a 1968 Chrysler Newport, so I was accustomed to driving a “tank.” I had also just graduated advanced individual training at the top of my class, so I felt like I could conquer the world.

With a few quick swipes of his Skilcraft pen on my DA 348, I was licensed on the M998 HMMWV, M923 5-ton truck, M113A3 Armored Personnel Carrier and M88A1 Recovery Vehicle. The only vehicle in this group I was actually proficient with was the M88A1 because I spent two weeks driving it during the ASI-H8 recovery school at Fort Knox, Kentucky. I had no clue how to operate the rest of the vehicles, but my license clearly stated I was certified to the Army standard.

I am sure many of you reading this have witnessed similar experiences and can relate to how quickly Soldiers are licensed when there is an urgent training event or deployment. This was my first impression of the Army’s Driver Training Program. And throughout my 20-plus-year career, I have heard and seen similar abuses of the licensing process.

Over the years I have spoken with Soldiers and leaders that told me how the qualifications on their DA 348 were pencil-whipped or falsified. These falsified licenses often occurred during a deployment or early in their careers and followed them to their next duty station. Unknown to leaders, Soldiers often report to their new unit with a DA 348 that states they are licensed according to the Army standard. However, the reality was quite different.

Below is a quick list of pointers to help engaged and proactive leaders revamp and standardize their unit’s driver training program:

   • Send your 88M3O/4O NCOs to attend the ASI M9 course at Fort Lee, Virginia, or request a mobile training team come to your location. These NCOs are certified by the Transportation School to oversee your brigade or battalion driver training programs and are the principal advisers to the commander.
   • Appoint high-performing NCOs (in writing) to be the unit driver instructors at the company level and have one or two per platoon. These NCOs will be the Soldiers to road test and certify training completion prior to adding qualifications on the DA 348. It is highly recommended they attend the local Master Driver Course because the instructors should understand the licensing policy in accordance with Army Regulation 600-55 and local standard operating procedures thoroughly.
   • Discuss the driver training strategy at company training meetings and the quarterly training brief. Giving this topic command influence and resourcing is the greatest tool to providing Soldiers with quality training.
   • Conduct audits of all driver training records to ensure they match the qualifications with SAMS1-E or in GCSS-Army. Charge the master driver and unit driver instructors with realistic timeframes to conduct this audit, and develop a glide path to bring your organization in compliance.
   • Ensure refresher training, annual check rides, night vision device training, rollover drills and water fording are all incorporated on the unit training calendar and executed to standard.
   • Insist your company commanders conduct the driver interviews themselves and use it as an opportunity to get to know their Soldiers. Commanders should use this time to speak with their Soldiers about the importance of responsible driving and safe vehicle operations.
   • Use the tools and resources available at your location. Reaching out to your battalion maintenance warrant officer/NCO, support operations, G4 and COMET team are all great places to start.
   • Use the myriad of resources located at the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s Driver’s Training Toolbox (https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/DriversTrainingToolbox.aspx) to develop a training program. The Transportation Corps webpage (http://www.transportation.army.mil/ADSO/ADSO_index.htm) and the TACOM UTAP website (https://utap.army.mil/ItemDetails.aspx?Id=963) also have a lot of training information available. In addition, a wealth of information can be found by searching for “driver training” on the UTAP website.

Improper Soldier training and licensing is often overlooked until there is an accident. Engaged leaders should understand driver training is imperative for Soldier safety, preserves the nation’s investment in our combat and tactical vehicles, and facilitates long-term mission accomplishment. Army vehicles are growing increasingly complex, and leaders have the express responsibility to ensure we have done everything possible to train our Soldiers to standard before issuing a license.

  • 1 December 2016
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 2744
  • Comments: 0