“Who here knows that they would be a good fit in transportation?” As J.B. Hunt’s Dave Harrison asks his question from the panelist table in front of the crowd of Marines that gathered to learn about career paths in the transportation industry, a few hands shot up. After a moment, a few more tentatively rose and others stayed put on the tables, unsure about what the industry had to offer them and how to get started.
This cross-section of Camp Pendleton’s Marines follows the same pattern FASTPORT has seen at military installations across the country: while many service members understand the career options transportation offers, the majority need guidance from industry experts to show them how their military experience helps the seamlessly transition into their industry.
To provide that industry mentorship, Camp Pendleton and FASTPORT coordinated representatives from trucking, truck stops, busing, commercial driver training, global cold chain, aviation, and short line rail to give a unified message of the nearly unlimited career paths that transportation offers in the form of two panel discussions, a question-answer session, and a hiring fair.
The first panel of the day gave an overview of the industry and focused on the current employment demands and available career paths. For example, the trucking industry has a 48,000 professional driver shortage, and that number continues to rise. Because of the demand for drivers, the trucking industry is working together to bring in new sources of drivers to avoid a driver supply crisis—and with 1.1 million service members transitioning over the next five years, Veterans are that source.
Members on this panel included (listed from left to right in the photo below):
- Don Lefeve, Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) President and CEO
- Oversees all operations at CVTA and is the chief advocate before Congress, the White House, and federal regulatory agencies. Lefeve joined CVTA in 2013 and brings over 15 years of government relations and political experience to his post.
- Dave Harrison, Military Program Manager for J.B. Hunt
- Served as in the U. S. Army as Infantryman and a Career Counselor. He was Infantry Squad Leader for Operation Just Cause, the Invasion of Panama, and as a Platoon Sergeant for Desert Shield and Desert Storm with the 1/502 Infantry, 101st ABN Division in the First Persian Gulf War. Dave now serves as the Military Program Manager or J.B. Hunt's military program, Hunt's Heroes.
- Felix Aguirre, Southwest Regional Manager/Field Recruiting for Werner Enterprises
- Served in the Marine Corps and is part of an 11-person Field Recruiting Team where he focuses on recruiting drivers from the southwest region. He has been working for Werner for 3 years and particularly proud of being able to support and hire veteran and veteran spouses.
- Mike Lynch, Military and Veteran Recruiter for Quality Carriers
- Mike Lynch enlisted in the U. S. Army as a Fire Direction Specialist in 1981, reenlisted for Avionics Repair and later selected for Recruiting Command in 1990. In recruiting, he held every position from Recruiter, Station Commander, Operations, Training, First Sergeant and Battalion Command Sergeant Major when he retired in 2012. Mike now is the Military and Veteran recruiter for Quality Carriers. In this position he is developing the company veteran hiring program Troops To Tankers.
The forum's second panel focused on how Veterans can help bridge the skills-gap as they transition from their military to civilian careers, including how to find and take advantage of training, certification, and apprenticeship opportunities provided by transportation industry sectors. This panel included (listed in left to right from the picture below):
- Carl Vickers, Military Relations Manager of PlaneTechs (a division of Peoplescout)
- Served in the US Air Force during OEF/OIF as an Aerospace Ground Equipment technician. Supported missions assigned to the 352 SOG and Air Force One and was part of team that launched and recovered the U2 during recon missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, Carl works at Peoplescout where he discovered his true passion in assisting veterans seeking employment.
- Catharine Perry, Director of Education and Training for the Global Cold Chain Alliance
- Provides strategic and operational leadership of all association education, training, talent development and industry recruitment initiatives. This includes directing the design, development, delivery, and evaluation of all learning activities. She also consults with members to identify business needs and translates them into high-quality, cost-effective learning products, programs, and services.
- Benita Flores, San Diego City Manager for Greyhound Lines
- Began her career with Greyhound Lines as an Information Clerk, but quickly advanced when she became a Tracing agent a month later and a Lead person the same year. She worked every single department in the terminal and later promoted to the Training department. Now Benita works to hire Veterans as Greyhound's San Diego City Manager.
- Otis Cliatt II, President of Pacific Harbor Line
- Served in the US Army's elite special operations and special forces command. Otis has over 20 years experience in the railroad industry specializing in railroad operations, safety and labor relations. He has served on the board of directors of American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), and GE Transportation's Customer Advisory Board and chaired the Veterans recruitment committee for the ASLRRA.
- Kenny Saunders, Terminal Manager for Cox Petroleum
- Served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and now puts his logistical experience to use in a career at Cox Petroleum where transitioned into the terminal manager position where he coordinates fuel transportation throughout the state of California.
One of the most thought-provoking moments during the panel discussion portion of the event was during the QA session when Marine Douglas Vasquez stood and asked the panelists, "What measures does trucking have in place to recognize marines who are hungry for a career? No one wants to be a cog in the wheel. How do you recognize their efforts?"
Werner Enterprises' Felix Aguirre responded emphatically, "I know when there's a good driver and a bad driver. It's unmistakable. They don't have the 'hard charger'. We see that, and we're going to rely on—and recognize—the best our our team. I know it sounds cliché, but the cream always rises to the top."
Mike Lynch from Quality Carriers agreed and added, "Your platoon sergeants do it the same way we do: We observe you. We communicate with you, and we support, recognize, and promote our best employees. Just as in the Corps, you will be recognized if you have good leaders."
On that note, Marines and Employers began preparing for the hiring fair. Over 30 transportation-based companies attended and met with 75 Marines throughout the rest of the event to provide direct access to the career opportunities they learned about during the panel discussions.
One Marine, Motor Vehicle Operator Charles Bishop, told FASTPORT how excited he was to have the industry-specific event and the ability to speak with so many employers at once: “I love to drive. I enlisted in the military and became a driver and knew that’s what I wanted to do, but it’s more than just wanting to do it—it’s a skilled profession, so I’m already working on my endorsements and completed my CDL Skills Waiver. I’m ready to go to work.”
In addition bringing employers on base, FASTPORT enlisted the help of Advanced Training Systems to provide their driving simulator to the hiring fair. Using their technology, Marines were able to see what it’s like to shift on a standard tractor-trailer and understand just how skilled drivers have to be to do this as they drive in the real world.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to give Camp Pendleton’s Marines unique access to the transportation industry and its varied employers,” said FASTPORT President Brad Bentley. “As FASTPORT continues to educate, motivate, inspire, and hire the next generation of transportation professionals, the industry is seeing just how important it is to collaborate as a single unit and bring these talented men and women into our field.”
FASTPORT and the transportation industry plan to return to Camp Pendleton to continue to educate and hire Marines into lasting careers. If you would like to participate in events like this on military installations, please reach out to FASTPORT at 978-877-4300. Or, visit truckingtrack.org for more information on our mission to employ Veterans, transitioning service members, Guardsmen, Reservists, and military spouses.