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Tractor-trailer driving students pull their weight at 188th Wing

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, offers guidance to a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, offers guidance to a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Larry Ricketts, 188th RED HORSE instructor, conducts a pre-trip inspection exam for a student in the 188th Wing's Tractor-Trailer Training Course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 30, 2018. The course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees, the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Larry Ricketts, 188th RED HORSE instructor, conducts a pre-trip inspection exam for a student in the 188th Wing's Tractor-Trailer Training Course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 30, 2018. The course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees, the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, supervises a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, supervises a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, offers pointers to a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, offers pointers to a student practicing backing maneuvers on the 3T course at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 29, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, demonstrates the 3T course's tractor-trailer simulator at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 30, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

Master Sgt. Bryan Sutton, 188th RED HORSE instructor, demonstrates the 3T course's tractor-trailer simulator at Ebbing ANG Base, Ark., August 30, 2018. The 3T course teaches active, Guard and Reserve Airmen, as well as DOD civilian employees the skills needed to operate tractor-trailers effectively and be able to acquire a military or civilian commercial driver's license. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. John E. Hillier)

EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ark. -- Engines are growling on the 188th Wing’s flight line once more, but instead of powering jet aircraft, they’re under the hoods of tractor-trailers used in the 188th RED HORSE Squadron’s “3T” course.

The 3T, or Tractor-Trailer Training course, allows total force Airmen and DOD civilian employees to learn the skills necessary to obtain a military or commercial driver’s license and put those skills to work in their jobs.

“The training students receive here enables them to go back to their home station and get a military driver’s license, which enables them to drive for the military,” said Master Sgt. Larry Ricketts, 3T instructor. “When they get home, they can take our certificate on the civilian side and get a Class A commercial driver’s license as well.”

The course is accredited through Professional Truck Driving Institute, which establishes standards and curriculum, allowing the 188th to instruct students from across the country. Course work covers a wide array of knowledge about tractor-trailer equipment and systems, as well as maneuvering the vehicle in both a closed skills course and over the road. Students are also required to complete extensive prerequisite training before arriving in Fort Smith.

Ricketts said that it takes a team effort from across the base to keep the course rolling along.

“We rely heavily on the Traffic Maintenance Office and use some of their equipment – trucks and a couple trailers,” Ricketts said. “Vehicle maintenance plays a huge part in this too, because if a truck breaks down, we still have to meet [accreditation requirements] for behind-the-wheel driving. Vehicle maintenance has been very diligent about coming out and fixing our trucks on the spot.”

Course instructors here have more than 70 years of driving experience among them, which proves invaluable when teaching students to handle these machines over the two week course.

“I didn’t even know how to drive a stick at all before I came here,” said 3T student Senior Airman Stanley Warren, a structural engineering specialist with the 45th Civil Engineering Squadron. “It’s been a good experience and the instructors really took care of us.”

“The course is student-driven,” explained Senior Master Sgt. Robert Haag, 188th RED HORSE senior instructor. “Some individuals pick it up quicker than others, but the majority of our students have no experience at all. We’re starting from scratch, which can be good because they haven’t developed any bad habits yet.”

Haag said that the Fort Smith is one of three locations currently offering this course in the U.S., but an additional site is expected to begin offering the course due to the high demand. The 188th Wing’s first class graduated in February and instructors expect to have trained two dozen students by the end of the current fiscal year.

The bottom line for every course staff member is to impart the skills necessary for students to go back to their units and safely accomplish the mission, wherever it takes them.

“It’s an 80,000 pound vehicle and you have to be able to take that responsibility to heart,” Ricketts said.