(FORT SILL, Okla.) –Today, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa took part in a ceremony recognizing the first graduates of a program that helps active military personnel transition to a career in transportation. The ceremony was held at the Army’s new Industrial Training Complex (ITC) in Fort Sill, Okla. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was also held to inaugurate the ITC.
The innovative six-week program is the result of a partnership between the Teamsters Military Assistance Program, U.S. Army, Fort Sill, ABF Freight, Soldier For Life, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. The program provides Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) instruction behind the wheel, as well as in a traditional classroom setting. Trainings will be repeated for new classes throughout the year.
“The men and women who defend and protect our country deserve good, full-time jobs when they return home. I am proud that our union is working in this great partnership to honor our military veterans and help them transition to a rewarding civilian career,” Hoffa said.
Michael Yauger, National Director of the Teamsters Military Assistance Program, said the ITC is the culmination of years of planning and hard work.
“We made it our mission to get this talent pool of men and women the certification and training they need to be on the path to the American Dream,” Yauger said.
“Fort Sill is proud to open our Industrial Training Complex today,” said Col. Glenn Waters, Garrison Commander at Fort Sill.” The ITC will provide training and job skill certification needed by industries that will be facing critical personnel needs in the next decade. Our soldiers will be provided training by the industry that most likely will become their future employers.”
“Providing training and employment opportunities for our transitioning soldiers will send a message to the next generation of Americans who will make up the future all-volunteer force. Our future soldiers will decide whether to serve based, in part, on how we care for our current veterans and how we support our transitioning soldiers and families as they reintegrate back into civilian life,” said Col. Adam Rocke, Director of Soldier For Life.
An estimated one million soldiers will leave the Army over the next decade. Veterans bring knowledge, skills and experience back from their service, and many active military members already possess the foundation for successful careers in transportation.
Natalie Walker, a graduate of the program, has served in the Army for nine years and will start work at ABF Freight in Nashville, Tenn., in May.
“I’ve driven trucks in the military, but I’ve learned a lot from the instructors here. They’re knowledgeable and helpful. I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life. This is an outstanding program and a great opportunity for any solider to have,” Walker said.
Staff Sgt. Jerry Pitkin has been with the Army for 15 years and is looking forward to starting work at ABF Freight in the Seattle area after graduation.
“I’ve always had security in the military and I want that coming out, too, because I have two daughters,” said Pitkin, whose father was a Teamster. “People need to understand what is being done here and the impact that this can have for soldiers coming out. It’s a tremendous thing.”
Once the CDL is earned by a participant, the union and ABF Freight provide job placement assistance within the nationwide ABF Freight network. Other transportation providers are expected to join the program in the future. With over 130,000 soldiers transitioning from military service to civilian life annually, this program will help meet a critical need.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.