DOL apprenticeship program helps Army vet Rebecca W. discover her true calling as a driver

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DOL apprenticeship program helps Army vet Rebecca W. discover her true calling as a driver
During her time in the military, Rebecca W. discovered a love for driving heavy trucks. Today she says she loves her job driving for NFI. (Courtesy: NFI)

NFI Industries driver Rebecca W. loves her career and her job — but, she says, she nearly followed a different path following her time in the military.

She initially planned to join a law enforcement agency after fulfilling her time serving the country.

Thanks to the discovery of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Registered Apprenticeship program, however, she found her true calling behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. Here’s her story, as shared with The Trucker.

“I first joined the Army National Guard in November 2010,” Rebecca said. “I was with them for 10 years. Since it was during a turbulent time in the world already — and then COVID-19 (struck in 2020) — we were constantly being called up. I would have around a two-week break, and they would call and tell me I was active again.”

Hoping for more home time, Rebecca approached her recruiter and asked if she could join the Army Reserve. That request was granted. She completed her time in the service (12 years total) in the Reserve and then separated as a sergeant in 2023.

During her service, she became well acquainted with the operation of heavy trucks, something she says she truly enjoyed.

“I drove a tanker truck with up to 23,000 gallons full of diesel fuel,” Rebecca said. “I filled generators, vehicles and Blackhawk helicopters. Driving trucks was so fun for me.”

During her service, a representative for a trucking company came to her unit to recruit drivers — but at the time, Rebecca passed on the opportunity. She had another dream.

“I wanted to be a cop,” she said. “That was what I wanted to do my whole life.”

A career in law enforcement was not in the cards, however.

“Unfortunately, I learned that my eyes wouldn’t let me. It was my depth perception. It had to be at a certain level, and it didn’t work out,” she said. “I had to sit myself down and figure out what else I would be good at doing.”

The answer was obvious.

“I called up my commander and he told me that since I had a military license, I could apply for a waiver to drive trucks,” she shared.

She ran into a snag: Many carriers she applied to did not recognize the time she spent driving in the military as equivalent to civilian driving experience.

The DOL’s apprenticeship program was a game-changer. When Rebecca’s commander told her about the program, not only did it open up new opportunities for her, but she was also able to find carriers like NFI that valued her service and skillset she developed in the military.

“The program was great for me,” Rebecca said. “I didn’t want my GI Bill benefits to go to waste, and I knew I wasn’t the type of person to go to school. I was able to use my GI Bill because the apprenticeship program is looked on as a new education. I got paid by the GI Bill, along with getting paid while driving as a civilian. I couldn’t believe it!”

Rebecca was also able to use her GI Bill to cover the different certificate courses to qualify to haul specialty freight, such as hazmat and oversized loads.

During the interim between the military and becoming a full-time driver, Rebecca says she put her love of the trucking industry to good use.

“When I separated from the Army, I was a yard jockey,” Rebecca said. “I did yard jockey for a year; then, after talking to my commander decided to get the waiver. I talked with other drivers and asked them what types of jobs were available. I learned about drop-and-hook and I learned about LTL.”

The path was paved for her to become a professional truck driver.

“I was able to walk into the Department of Motor Vehicles with my waiver and leave with a CDL the same day,” Rebecca said. “Since I was a petroleum supply specialist (in the Army), they gave me tanker. I did have to go and get my hazmat certification for the trucking company I was with at the time.”

She was immediately hired by a company that accepted her yard jockey time, along with her waiver and CDL — even with no civilian drive time experience. She easily passed a required road test for the role and spent five weeks with a trainer to help her ease into the civilian role.

“It was fast-track learning for sure,” Rebecca said. “The Army and civilian driving are so different, so I had to learn a lot.”

Shortly after Rebeccas left her first civilian driving job and joined another company, the economy took a downturn. Her new role paid her by load rather than by the hour, and the income simply was not enough in the economic environment.

What was next? she wondered.

“That was when I found NFI,” she said. “I had seen their trucks on the freeway. I applied and they called me, and a week later I was with NFI. I am so glad they took my military experience!”

The thing that truly drew Rebecca to NFI, she says, was the value the company places on veterans as well as on women.

“Even when I did my road test, my trainer thanked me for my service,” Rebecca said. “They asked me what all I did and were truly interested. I just really love how supportive of veterans they are.”

Rebecca’s transportation manager, Russ H., says NFI is incredibly fortunate to include former service members on the team.

“Rebecca brings strong assets to NFI through her military experiences including her professionalism, positive attitude, and motivation,” he said.

“First, Rebecca’s time in our country’s military makes her dedicated and hardworking,” he continued. “Second, she is extremely dependable and focused on service, all of which leads to her proficiency at managing daily routines and procedures both efficiently and effectively.”

Dana Guthrie

Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.

Avatar for Dana Guthrie
Dana Guthrie is an award-winning journalist who has been featured in multiple newspapers, books and magazines across the globe. She is currently based in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
For over 30 years, the objective of The Trucker editorial team has been to produce content focused on truck drivers that is relevant, objective and engaging. After reading this article, feel free to leave a comment about this article or the topics covered in this article for the author or the other readers to enjoy. Let them know what you think! We always enjoy hearing from our readers.

DOL apprenticeship program helps Army vet Rebecca W. discover her true calling as a driver


Congratulations Rebecca, that is what makes trucking valuable to each of us. There is nothing in our lives that is not touched by trucking, we serve everyone.