LAS VEGAS – The Nevada Army National Guard driver training program is in the midst of a much-needed overhaul to prepare vehicle operators for success on both Silver State roadways and future battlefields.The update will optimize the maintenance plan for the state’s approximately 1,500 ground vehicles and reduce maintenance expenditures.The state’s Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (G3) is dedicating $500,000 to the program. In the first round of courses, Soldiers learn the Palletized Load System (PLS) and the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV’s). Some 240 Soldiers will take the eight-course sessions in northern and southern Nevada through May.These courses are much different than the Army’s former ‘Master Driver’ program. The new classes include licensed evaluators and licensed instructors (LE/LIs) who will enforce qualification standards. They can evaluate students and teach others how to become qualified trainers in the future. The goal is to have every Nevada Guard unit with their own LE/LIs assigned to them.This new program promises to improve the Logistics Directorate’s (G4) ability to follow the Army’s Optimizing Maintenance Plans (OMP) in non-combat operations. With more trained drivers, the majority of the fleet that is underutilized will be driven more, making maintenance service intervals more efficient.Both G3 and G4 officials agree that the wheeled fleet is suffering unneeded servicing during non-combat operations. Nevada Guard vehicles have not been transported or driven in a combat area in more than a decade. A transition toward necessary maintenance would be more economical without any loss of readiness.A recent assessment concluded that if the Army could transition to the OMP, it could potentially save $47.7 million in maintenance costs and about 2.4 million hours in associated labor per year.The increasing number of drivers will lead to more miles driven, which makes the respective vehicles eligible for the OMP schedule.“The minimum number of miles is very realistic,” said Maj. Brett Eklund, the G3 surface maintenance manager. “It takes just 15 miles per quarter for a vehicle to become eligible for enrollment into the Army’s Optimizing Maintenance Plans program,” Eklund continued. “That’s just five miles a month. This number can easily be reached if all of our qualified drivers hop into their unit’s assigned vehicles, start them up, and use them during their drills and missions.”Eklund said that roughly 80 percent of the Nevada Army Guard’s vehicles are fully mission-capable, but administrative deadlines have lowered the operational readiness level to less than 50 percent strength. He said more than one-third of the fleet is delinquent for current, time-based, maintenance service.“The driver’s training is critical because it serves as the first step for the state’s units to fully use their equipment with qualified drivers,” said 1st. Sgt. Scott Berry, a senior instructor in the driver’s training program.Depending on their unit’s equipment, Soldiers will have the choice of attending the PLS or the FMTV driver’s training course.“First, we teach students how to safely drive the vehicle platform,” Berry said. “Then, we teach students how to effectively communicate with each other. We will then advance to lanes training where the Soldiers bring all of their acquired skills together.”Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Mills, a motor transport operator and senior training instructor, emphasized that proper training is essential to avoid accidents. Mills has been a civilian semi truck driver for nearly three decades.“About 68 percent of vehicle accidents in the Army are due to lack of training or inadequate driver training programs,” Mills said.“We are building a standardized program that Soldiers can use across multiple vehicle platforms,” Mills said. “They will take this knowledge back to their home units.”“Eventually, individual units will train on their own and practice advanced combat tasks such as convoy defense,” Berry said. “We need to be ready to deploy, fight, and win decisively against any U.S. adversary.”For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard Twitter