SPRINGFIELD, IL (04/06/2012)(readMedia)-- "You call, we haul," is uttered by many transportation company Soldiers throughout the state. Motor transport operators drive the force, hauling rolling stock to ammunition and other vital supplies.
The Illinois National Guard's 129th Regional Training Institute out of the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln trained 11 Soldiers from various state and Army components to be certified as motor transport operators (88M) at the Illinois State Police Training Area in Pawnee, March 18 to April 1.
The 129th operates, like many other military schools, with a crawl, walk, run course progression. The Soldiers start in the classroom learning everything from hand and arm signals to how to fill out a dispatch form.
Soldiers then move to hands-on practice backing up with a 5-ton cargo truck, a 915 with a tractor trailer and a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck with tractor trailer. They also practice driving in convoys and night vision driving.
The main emphasis of the training is to give Soldiers the skills they will need to be successful during future operations.
Illinois is one of 20 states offering a course that certifies Soldiers as 88Ms.
"The Illinois Military Academy has been described as the best Army school house in the nation," said Col. Thomas Weiss of Williamsville, the director of Training, Operations and Plans at Camp Lincoln. "It's important we support our Military Academy by enrolling in its courses before considering other sources of training."
Soldiers will receive quality training at the 88M course, the instructors said.
"The training that we put together is among the top in the country," said Sgt. 1st Class James R. Griffin of Riverton, a course manager in the 129th. "Back in July we received an accreditation from both United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the 88M transportation proponent as an Institute of Excellence. We have had several best practices for things we have done, not just out here on the lanes, but also for our work behind the scenes."
Spc. Chris R. Rapacz of Springfield, a former gunner in an active-duty field artillery unit and now with the 724th Transportation Company, an Army Reserve unit in Bartonville, said he is excited about the training he's received.
"It's great," said Rapacz. "That's why you join the Army; to do neat things. I shot some of the biggest guns in the military and now I am going to drive some of the biggest trucks. I am all around satisfied with everything about this training."
Several Soldiers from out of the state participated in the training as well.
"The quality of the training is good," said Pfc. Jason T. Snyder of Louisville, Ky., who drills with the 203rd Forward Support Company in Elizabethtown, Ky. "I am confident that I will be able to take a lot of these skills back to my unit and on a deployment if needed and will be able to utilize these skills."
In addition to being a benefit for Soldiers attending the course, the course also provides many benefits to the state of Illinois that make this the ultimate win-win scenario.
"It will help Illinois save money because Illinois is the largest National Guard transportation state in the United States," said Sgt. 1st Class Ed D. Heap of Bushnell with the 129th. "We have the most transportation companies and, with us doing our own training, we don't have to pay a different state for lodging and meals. We don't have to pay a lot to the Soldiers for traveling. It also helps Illinois National Guard Soldiers save a lot of wear and tear on their vehicles when they don't have to do a long drive."
"These skills are very applicable to real-mission scenarios," said Heap. "Overseas in theater they do have the line-haul missions. They are going to have to back up under all sorts of missions."
Several of the instructors have performed as 88Ms while in a deployment overseas and know the importance of transportation.
"An 88M is very essential to the overall mission of the Army," said Heap. "Without 88Ms units won't get their supplies. I consider 88M to be the main backbone of the Army because we haul the supplies including the food, water, fuel, ammunition. So without the 88M the Army can't run logistically."
Griffin agreed with Heap's assessment.
"I used to have a quote for the guys who would make fun of me for being a truck driver and it says that 'I may not be the pride of the Army, but without me your pride don't ride,'" said Griffin.
There is a great need for 88Ms. While there are more than 1,000 certified 88Ms in the Illinois Army National Guard, there are still 162 88M openings waiting to be filled. With that many openings new 88M Soldiers can expect a fast-tracked career and increased leadership opportunities.