JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington - For the first time, Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, held a military vehicle operators' course specifically designed for driving in Korea for I Corps Soldiers August 14-18.
JBLM has a course that licenses drivers for the operation of non-tactical vehicles from transportation motor pools in Korea, but this is the first class here to license drivers to operate tactical vehicles in Korea.
The course is designed to prepare Soldiers to drive during future missions in Korea by certifying and licensing them to drive military vehicles, such as Humvees and light medium tactical vehicles, both stateside and in Korea without needing a separate licensing course upon arrival in the host nation.
It was organized with command support from United States Forces-Korea and led by Mauricio Martinez, a master driver from the 8th Army Safety Office in Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. Fifteen Soldiers recently completed the pilot course.
Martinez said the course is essential to readiness for overseas exercises.
"Driving in a foreign country poses risks, and we have to make sure we are meeting the standards," Martinez said.
The 40-hour course includes classroom and hands-on instruction. Topics covered include understanding the driving regulations in America and Korea and installing snow chains in preparation for Korea's harsh winters. The hands-on portion includes operating vehicles through a course that simulates events such as sudden braking and parking in tight spaces.
The course also includes information on unique driving customs and courtesies in Korea that Americans may not be familiar with.
"In the Army, there is high potential to travel all over the world to cultures we are not familiar with," Martinez said. "We are responsible to adjust, which includes driving patterns."
Spc. Tyler Mosley, a course participant assigned to Signal Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, said it is important to be familiar with a host nation's driving standards before arriving there.
"This course is valuable because it goes over the regulations in Korea and the differences there," Mosley said. "Some people might not think driving overseas is that different, but in Korea it's cramped, and they have different laws and different methods of driving."
Martinez held a course the first week of August to train 12 master drivers to teach the USFK operator's class once he heads back to Korea.
Sgt. Oscar Matsomoto, a master driver assigned to SIS Co., and an instructor for the newly added course, said training beforehand saves valuable mission time once Soldiers are in Korea.
"For the first time we can qualify all of I Corps on site, so they arrive in Korea ready to drive," Matsomoto said.
Matsomoto said the course this year was made possible by partnering with the 8th Army Safety Office in Korea to get the necessary training to teach the course.
"We had a requirement to fulfill, but we didn't have the help needed to put up the project until now," he said.
Matsumoto said he wants to instruct as many Soldiers as possible before the end of the year.
"I want to see about 100 Soldiers licensed," he said.
Matsumoto said there are plans to hold a class in mid-September and another in mid-October.