Leave driving to us
By Pfc. Abel Trevino
Soldiers of 644th Transportation Company trained and graduated the first group of Iraqi local nationals from a basic course in driving and maintaining freightliners June 8.
The group of 31 students, carefully screened for security by the 13th Corps Support Command, completed the 60 hours of required training, said Staff Sgt. William J. Miles, training non-commissioned officer for the 644th Trans. Co.
The course was beneficial to Soldiers and the people of Iraq.
"It's a collaborative effort to get them more involved in the development of their country," said Miles.
The instructors' ultimate goal in the 60-hour course was to properly train the Iraqis to be proficient in truck driving.
"The emphasis on our training is truck operations, from the basic [Primary Maintenance Checks and Services] to truck instrumentation to loading and unloading and proper tying procedures. Basic truck operations are what we're training them on. We have not and will not train them on any tactical operations," said Miles, the owner of four freightliners in the United States.
The military is providing the students flak vests and Kevlar helmets upon completion of the course for their personal protection in the truck, Miles said.
Since May 24, eight Soldiers from the 644th Trans. Co. have been training the Iraqi students with positive response.
"The [local nationals] have maintained a positive attitude from day one. They are wanting and ready to drive," said Miles.
Initially, the Soldiers were not enthused about changing missions, but the students were able to change their minds completely.
"The willingness of the local nationals to learn and their energy and enthusiasm about learning has affected their instructors to a more positive attitude, because they are receptive to wanting to learn," Miles said.
The instructors have backgrounds in driving commercially and have been part of the teaching process throughout their military careers. All of them recognized the importance of their new mission and undertook the responsibility of training the students with utmost seriousness, Miles said.
Through the efforts and hard work of the students and the instructors, the Iraqi nationals trained by the Army as cargo drivers successfully hit the road.
Watching his rearview mirror carefully, Yuri nudges the freightliner he is driving backwards into a simulated parking area. Yuri has been learning from eight instructors the basics in driving and maintaining freightliners since May 24.
Yunis practices ground guiding a fellow student of the 644th Transportation Company's basic course in driving and maintaining freightliners. Yunis is part of the first group of students to receive the 60 hours of hands-on instruction.