When convoys are a learning experience
December 6, 2012
WINNEMUCCA, Nev. (July 24, 2012) -- Spc. Randy Grijalva thinks driving thousands of miles through the desert as time away from work.
Grijalva isn't just a truck driver for the 222nd Transportation Company, Arizona National Guard. In the civilian world, he works as a high school science teacher.
"This is a vacation for me," he said next to the truck cab he drove during Operation Golden Cargo, a two-week military logistics mission. Reserve units ran the July event that was manned by servicemembers from throughout the military branches.
Staff Sgt. Linda M. McConnell of Phoenix, Ariz., a squad leader, said they have teachers, students, grocery clerks, medical professionals and even professional truck drivers in the unit.
"It makes the unit strong," she said.
Pfc. Zachary J. Langston of San Diego, Calif., a truck driver, works for an organic grocery store in his civilian life. He also studies computer information systems at Arizona Sate University.
"It's a whole different environment," he said, pointing out his enjoyment of being on the road.
Spc. Gershon T. Chow of San Francisco, a truck driver with the 711th Transportation Company, a Reserve unit, also works as a civilian security guard. He loves driving for the military enough that he's considering getting a commercial truck driver's license.
"I get to see the world -- different places -- and meet new people," Chow said.
Many of the Soldiers, even after driving tens of thousands of miles across Nevada deserts in the summer, said they enjoy being on the road.
In turn, Grijalva said his students enjoy seeing photos of his military experience when he posts them online. And through his teaching, he enjoys the looks on his students' faces when he shows them something new about subjects they thought they already knew everything about.
"We get to make a bit of a difference," he said of educators.
Grijalva originally wanted to become a school coach and discovered the best way was literally through education. He said he had to become a teacher first.
He started six years ago and now teaches earth science at Skyline High School in Mesa, Ariz. Grijalva also coaches wrestling, tennis and football at the school. His military career started in 2010, when, after a divorce, he decided to dust off a long-held desire to join.
"I had my 35th birthday in basic training," he said.
Since then, he said he has undergone experiences ranging from changing military truck tires -- which he described as "nothing like changing a civilian tire" -- to putting out a brake fire with the help of his driving partner.
McConnell said Grijalva even helps teach other Soldiers during down time using manuals at hand.
"He's good. High speed," she said. "He'll do classes within the unit. Hip pocket type-stuff."
Instruction bleeds into his life in other ways, specifically when he's learning more things about his military job from his noncommissioned officers.
"The whole thing has been learning what to do and what not to do," Grijalva said.