By 1st Lt. Titus FirminAugust 8, 2019
For annual training 2019, the 137th Transportation Company, Kansas Army National Guard, convoyed from Kansas to the Blue Grass Army Depot in Richmond, Kentucky. The unit trained at the Blue Grass Army Depot to prepare for next year's exercise at Fort Irwin National Training Center (NTC) in California.
En route, one of the 137th's trucks blew out a tire, but the truck crew quickly and safely changed out the tire on the side of the interstate. A flat tire might have slowed down other units, but the 137th arrived in Richmond on time. Danger is inherent in the job of a motor transport operator, but for the Soldiers of the 137th the rewards of service are worth the risk.
The 137th Trans. Co. utilizes the Palletized Loading System (PLS) and hauls shipping containers filled with anything from food and supplies to ammunition and weapons. At annual training, the unit conducted drivers training, ammo hauls, convoys, blackout driving with night vision goggles, land navigation and leaders reaction course.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Mohatt, commander of the Kansas Army National Guard, visited with the Soldiers of the 137th Trans. Co. Mohatt emphasized next year's training at the NTC and encouraged the 137th to take advantage of state educational assistance.
"Because of the force structure, [trucker drivers] have the most career opportunities in the Kansas Army National Guard," said Mohatt.
In addition to providing career opportunities, the Guard also offers benefits to Soldiers looking to get an education. Started in 2019, Kansas provides 100 percent college tuition to members of the Kansas National Guard.
"Young people join because they are looking for adventure or some extra money," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Adair, unit readiness noncommissioned officer assigned to the 137th Trans. Co. "But they find out the National Guard offers great benefits that are more valuable as they get older."
Many of the Soldiers of the 137th stated that joining the Kansas National Guard was one of the best decisions they ever made.
Nineteen year-old, Pfc. Juliana Ree of Kansas City, Kansas, enlisted because of the educational benefits offered by the Guard. Spc. David Mwaura of Overland Park used his military expertise to start his own trucking business and is in the process of acquiring his commercial driver's license to add tractor-trailers to his fleet. Mwaura said he initially joined for the school benefits, but a $15,000 bonus and $45 monthly premium for Tricare health insurance convinced him to re-enlist.
Pfc. Ian Muiruri of Kansas City, Kansas, joined in 2013 because he enjoys driving and after seeing posters and commercials he thought "the Army looked cool." Since he joined the 137th Trans. Co., Muiruri has nearly completed a bachelors in computer science at the University of Kansas, while driving for DoorDash.
Born in Jamaica, Spc. Maresia Pencil came from a family of little means, so she started running track as a way to support her family. She came to the U.S. on a track and field scholarship at Missouri Baptist and was later scouted by the University of Kansas to compete in the 800 meter dash. Though she did not qualify, she even tried out for the Olympics.
"Running was literally my escape," said Pencil.
In 2018 the KSARNG reorganized and the 137th gained over 70 new positions. The unit jumped from 90 to 163 Soldiers. Positions at the 137th vary, the unit is authorized trucker drivers, clerks, supply personnel, mechanics, cooks, as well as communications and human resources specialist. The 731st Trans. Co. also has available positions located at Manhattan, Wichita, Liberal, and Great Bend.