Military service members in North Carolina can now take advantage of a new program that is aimed at helping them find truck driving jobs once they leave the military.
The program is a commercial driver training course taught at Fort Bragg, and military spouses qualify too.
For soldiers taking the class Wednesday, it is part of their transition out of the military.
"It helps with the anxiety of getting out," said Spc. Francisco Salazar.
After being in the Army for nearly six years, he said the course is the start of an unknown journey.
"A lot of us have been in the military so long that it's scary to get out, and it really is, and I'm one of them."
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver served in the Army for 26 years, and said he is ready to explore another career for a while before retiring.
"I'm excited and I'm nervous at the same time," Oliver said. "I've been doing this more than half my adult life."
The program promises to help them find work after the Army. It is estimated North Carolina needs 15,000 truck drivers, and more than 100,000 are needed across the country.
"We need to not only replace the retirees out of the industry, but also yield future growth," explained Sherman Daniel, a representative of the North Carolina Trucking Association who works with trucking company Epes Transport.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration awarded a grant to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to provide the program. Each student will be responsible for paying $120 in fees, that will include a $15 driving permit (due after completion of the knowledge and vision tests), a $30 commercial driver license application fee and, upon successful completion of the course, $75 for a five-year North Carolina CDL.
"Getting this training here at Fort Bragg is just phenomenal," commented Sgt. Brian Hernandez who considered getting the training on his own before the program was available.
Salazar also looked into private commercial driver training. He said the skills he learns in the program will make it a lot easier for him to find work after the Army.
"I actually looked it up before I came to this class on how much this costs for the civilian world, and it's quite a lot," Salazar said.
Oliver agreed. He said the program is clearing up a lot of concerns he had about leaving the army and beginning a new career.
"It does lift pressure off the weight of my shoulders, knowing that there's that many jobs available especially in North Carolina," Oliver said. "We're actually going to retire in North Carolina. So we're here to stay."
Troops and their spouses in other parts of the state also qualify for the program as long as they can get to class at Fort Bragg.
The Fort Bragg Commercial Truck Driver Course is a series of six eight-week commercial truck driver training courses taught at Fort Bragg by faculty from the Johnston Community College Truck Driver Training Division.
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>
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Question, comment or news tip? The WNCN main desk is happy to take your call and direct you to the appropriate department. Our station phone number is:919-836-1717 Our address is:1205 Front St. Raleigh, N.C.