FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Forney Airfield’s Air Traffic Assistant John Yohn is Fort Leonard Wood’s most-recent graduate of the Army’s Master Driver Course.
While it may sound like he could now hop into a Formula 1 race car and give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money, it’s actually a much more useful certification for the Fort Leonard Wood community and the massive variety of potentially dangerous vehicles and other equipment used here each day.
Yohn said the training he received earlier this year at the 13-day course — offered at Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia — provided “knowledge over several Army regulations designed to help individuals build a driver and operator training program for their unit.” Yohn is now the master driver for the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
While this program has been in place for active-duty Soldiers for years — Fort Leonard Wood’s 58th Transportation Battalion, for example, has many master drivers for the multitude of motor transport operators in the unit — Army civilians will now have standardized military licensing requirements as well.
According to Fort Leonard Wood’s garrison-level master driver manager, Mike Dewitt, it all comes down to putting safety at the forefront of everyone’s mindset when operating anything that has the potential to cause injury or death, including many commercial, off-the-shelf products used on post.
“Basically, whether you’re an active-duty Soldier or Army civilian, you need to be aware of the requirements to operate that piece of equipment, whether it’s a chain saw or a semi-truck. There’s going to be some kind of requirement, whether it’s a one-hour block of instruction and following an operating owner’s manual, or an actual course,” Dewitt said. “The end goal is to keep everyone safe and to maximize (Department of Defense) dollars to the best of our ability — and this is one of the tools in the toolbox.”
Dewitt said each garrison organization will be required to have a master driver, who is charged with keeping records for every person using potentially dangerous equipment. There will be some exceptions for the installation’s smallest offices, and those that don’t use dangerous equipment.
“Once a master driver is established, they are the subject matter experts of anything and everything driver training and operating,” Dewitt said. “So, they need to be familiarized with regulations and all the technical publications involved in their realm. The hard part is every Army unit is different. The master driver needs to have a toolbox in order to be proficient in all of that.”
Fortunately, the Army Safety Center has developed a website to aid in managing these requirements, Dewitt said.
Organized under the master driver at each directorate — and for military units, at each battalion — will be what are called license instructors and license examiners at the level below directorate or battalion, who will oversee the actual instruction and examination of potential drivers and operators, like their titles imply. And while the master driver must, for now, attend the in-residence course in Virginia, the license instructor and examiner trainings are done through distance learning.
“The license instructors and license examiners are vehicle and equipment subject matter experts selected and appointed by the company commander or civilian branch chief,” Dewitt said.
More information on all things Army Master Driver Program can be found in Army Regulation 600-55. Dewitt also said he is happy to assist units with questions on the program. He can be reached by calling 573.596.3811.