TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The idiom goes “Kill two birds with one stone.” The 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California, is aiming to do the old saying one better: “Get two licenses with one test.”
As of December 2020, 60th LRS ground transportation operators have been subject to a new, more rigorous certification process for their driving credentials in the interest of aligning their own curriculum with that of their private sector counterparts like the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The benefit of the new process is twofold, said Patrick McCarthy, 60th LRS ground transportation manager.
“Our new training requirements don’t just churn out more confident drivers,” he said. “Through the newly-minted Even Exchange Program, military drivers can now apply the experience they’ve gained to waive the knowledge and skills tests for a civilian Commercial Driver’s License. This sets our veterans up for a job on the outside that can potentially pay up to six figures.”
McCarthy explained that the program, co-sponsored by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators as well as the Department of Transportation, has interested applicants pay a small accreditation fee for their civilian licenses instead of multiple fees: a fee for the commercial vehicle rental to perform the driving test, a fee for the written test and a fee for the license itself.
“In the end, it lowers the cost of entry into an industry that’s historically about 20 to 25 percent undermanned,” he explained. “That pays dividends not only for the trucking industry at large, but also for those who get out of the service without much lined up. With this, we make that transition to the private sector more of a bridge for them instead of a cliff.”
Staff Sgt. Patrick Eglinton, 60th LRS equipment support noncommissioned officer in charge, is one Airman who’s seen the program grow from its infancy to what’s now a program that’s either been implemented or in the implementation process in 26 states.
For Eglinton, who’s expressed his desire to make the military his career, the program represents a way of training military truck drivers in a more holistic way that brings to bear a host of situations they might’ve otherwise never been exposed to.
“When we say we made a military equivalency program that serves to satisfy the requirements and standards of the private sector, we’re talking about all 50 states,” Eglinton said. “We’re not training our people to just drive on a flat-grade flight line. Our driving tests make sure to expose our Airmen to all kinds of terrain and situations so that they won’t only succeed at Travis AFB, but anywhere they happen to find themselves.”
Whether an Airman wants to stay in the service as a career or do a four-year enlistment and separate, it’s the Air Force’s desire to see everyone who chooses to defend their country cared for and successful, Eglinton said.
“At the end of the day, everyone in a uniform rose their right hand to serve our country, and now it’s the country’s hope to serve them in return,” he said.
The Even Exchange Program is currently active on some level in 26 states with plans to become active in the remaining 24, according to McCarthy. Plans to allow Department of Defense civilian workers to participate in the program are also in development.