Imagine driving a tractor trailer one day, a bus filled with soldiers the next and hauling military equipment the following day? How about doing some ice-road trucking?
Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) Master Corporal Andrew Stewart has done all that and more. He is in-charge of the road and safety vehicle section, and his job includes taking care of Department of National Defence (DND) 404 licences, conducting air brake and dangerous goods courses, driver trainer examiner courses and investigating collisions involving DND vehicles.
Stewart joined CAF in 2009, signing up for the Mobile Support Equipment (MSE) operator trade that encompasses many different jobs besides driving trucks. After completing basic training in Saint Jean in Quebec, he was sent to Borden, Ontario for initial trade training.
“The first thing you are taught is how to drive a four-wheeler with a standard transmission,” he told TruckNews.com during Atlantic Transportation & Logistics Show in Moncton, N.B.
He moved to a three-ton, a five-ton vehicle, and learned to operate military-specific vehicles. He was then posted to a base.
Personnel start out doing local runs in five-ton vehicles, driving VIPs in staff cars and cleaning equipment.
“As your chain of command gains faith in you and your abilities to learn and drive bigger vehicles you move into buses,” Stewart said. It begins with a 21-passenger bus, then a 44-passenger vehicle and move on to a 54-passenger highway bus. Eventually tractor trailer training is provided.
Stewart has been in the heavy equipment section for most of his career. The job can sometimes be similar to a civilian longhaul driver.
If exercises are underway, units from all over the country need to get their kit to a location. “For months at a time there won’t be much difference between us and a civilian longhaul driver,” he noted. Civilian drivers do it daily, but military personnel get breaks, driving different equipment as the need arises.
Stewart said as his career progressed and received promotions, he got the opportunity to see the other side of trucking. “I do licensing, and train people. It is all encompassing. It is not just driving the truck, it is all the administration that goes behind it, the planning.”
He noted that as one gets older, medicals come up more often for Class 1 drivers. If one can’t pass the medical, it does not mean you are out of a job, you are moved into a different path.
Stewart has rolled through many parts of the country, hauling equipment from Esquimalt, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia. “A few years ago, we had some deliveries to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories – and it involved driving on some ice roads,” he said.
Helping out in flood-hit area
He’s also helped when heavy floods hit Manitoba in 2011, delivering troops who assisted in sand-bagging efforts. The MSE operator trade supports combat forces – the boots on the ground. “It’s one big team effort, everyone is doing their job,” he said.
Stewart said it takes discipline to work for anybody, including the military. It is slightly different, but not much. One must go through basic training, and then it is just another job. “As long as you like what you are doing, then you’ll do just fine,” he added. “I have people who work for me and I’m basically just the foreman of the crew. And they are doing their jobs.”
The qualifications, skills and training gained from military service are transferable to civilian life including the Class 1 licence.
“If I was a young person today and was not sure of what I wanted to do, I would consider the armed forces. Any job you can think of that exists in the civilian world; it exists in the armed forces. You can be a doctor or work on helicopters,” he said.
You could also drive some very cool trucks.
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