Life after Military Service: Veterans in Trucking
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice went into effect in 1918, signaling the end of World War I. Today, 104 years later, we honor the 41 million men and women who have served in the United States military, observing the historical significance of November 11. Each year, Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to thank America’s veterans for their service, dedication and sacrifice, and PGT Trucking values and appreciates the commitment these men and women have shown to our country. Today, and every day, we thank you for your service.
THE SKILLS TO SUCCEED
After active duty, veterans must start their transition back to civilian life. They are faced with starting over, finding a new home, a new purpose, and a new career. While service members spend years honing their skills within their specialized occupation, they are often left wondering how to apply those skills to a job once they’re out of the military. The transition phase can be one of the most difficult tasks for a veteran to manage, but a career in trucking can provide immediate opportunities for those with a military background.
For James Delwiche, PGT Manager, Breakdown, he used his experience as a diesel mechanic in the United States Marine Corps to help guide his career path in transportation. James joined PGT after serving eight years, including two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. James has been able to use his knowledge as a diesel mechanic to help PGT drivers get back on the road quickly, but the military provided James with more than just a mechanical background.
“Through the Marine Corps, I learned to be disciplined, to adapt to any situation, and to perform my duties with a sense of urgency,” says James. “These qualities have helped me succeed at PGT, especially in the Maintenance Department.”
Approximately 10% of employed veterans currently work in transportation. As James mentioned, veterans have an aptitude for trucking—their discipline, hard work ethic and overall adaptability helps them to be successful, building long, prosperous careers in the industry. PGT Company Driver Clifford Heaton believes that the meticulous nature of the military also plays a part in helping flatbed truck drivers stay safe on the road.
“In the military, you must pay attention to every little detail,” states Cliff. “There are lives at stake if you don’t, and that applies to truck driving as well. You have to stay focused on the road to keep everyone around you safe.”
Cliff served in the United States Air Force for 10 years, traveling through 26 countries during his military career. He now drives for PGT as a Million Mile Safe Driver and a Premier Professional, an elite fleet of PGT drivers who maintain high performance and safety standards at all times.
David Brainard, PGT Company Driver, has been able to apply his extensive route planning experience in the United States Army to flatbed truck driving. David served in the Army for 11 years as a part of convoy operations, deploying to Iraq and Cuba during Operation Enduring Freedom, so trip planning as a flatbed truck driver came naturally to him. David has built upon his success at PGT to become a Certified PRO Trainer, tasked with training PGT’s newest drivers the flatbed trucking basics, including effective trip planning. David has found his true calling at PGT, recently being named as PGT’s Certified PRO Trainer of the Year for 2021.
“PGT is a great company for veterans,” states David. “PGT’s values reflect the same military qualities that we veterans all share, and you can build a prosperous career here.”
THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
Cody Kastelic, PGT Manager, Load Center, completed a four-year service in the United States Air Force as an Air Transportation Specialist, even taking part in the presidential detail. After the Air Force, Cody decided to advance his logistics career and join PGT. Like James, Cliff and David, Cody has found success in the trucking industry due to the similarities between the military and transportation.
“In the Air Force and at PGT, everything is very structured, and communication is critical,” says Cody. “There’s a comradery here that makes it easy to fit in and perform well.”
That comradery has led to other veterans considering a career in transportation, like Jarrett Shreffler, PGT Carrier Relations Representative. Jarrett served in the United States Marines Corps for four years as a canine handler, spending time assigned to the United States Secret Service. After the military, Jarrett briefly attended college classes, but he was unsure of his civilian career path. Jarrett met Cody at a local career fair, talking about their similar military backgrounds, and because of their conversation, Jarrett decided to enter the trucking industry.
“The Marine Corps helped me learn to adapt to unforeseen situations,” states Jarrett. “Transportation is very similar to the military in that both fields are constantly changing, so I was able to easily transition into this new role and be successful.”
Fellow Marine Steven Michener, PGT Company Driver, also recognizes the bond that military veterans share, especially for truck drivers out on the road. Steve served in the United States Marine Corps for five years as a diesel mechanic, spending time at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms. Steve has been with PGT since 2004, being recognized as a 10 Year Safe Driver and member of our Premier Professional fleet, and he is entrusted with driving the PGT Pittsburgh Panthers truck to Pitt’s football games.
“Veterans look out for each other,” notes Steve. “It’s an admirable trait, and it never goes away. We have a strong sense of community within the trucking industry.”
Richard Blinkiewicz, PGT Company Driver, has never shied away from hard work. Richard served in the United States Navy for four years as a mechanic, spending two and a half years on a submarine tender outside of Spain. Richard worked on various equipment in the Navy, including cranes that loaded nuclear missiles into submarines, and he applied the basic mechanical skills he learned to his civilian career, always turning a wrench in some capacity. Richard joined PGT in 1997, and he has had a successful trucking career. As he prepares for his retirement from the truck (he will still be keeping busy at home), Richard has some advice for the next generation of drivers.
“Take care of yourself, eat right and take the time to do the right things,” advises Richard. “This is hard, yet rewarding, work, and your body will thank you in the future.”
At PGT, 8% of our corporate employees and 7% of our drivers are military veterans. We are proud of their service, and we support our veterans all year long. Thank you to James, Cliff, David, Cody, Jarrett, Steven, Richard and all PGT drivers and employees who have served our country!
CONSIDER A TRANSPORTATION CAREER TODAY
With the current truck driver shortage, veterans can enter the transportation industry right away without spending years pursuing higher education. There are multiple resources available to help veterans start a career in trucking, including options to waive CDL test requirements based on verified military experience. The GI Bill can even help cover the cost of CDL training, keeping veterans debt-free.