FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. - Moving troops and equipment is an essential task designated for Soldiers with the motor transport operator military occupational specialty. As the seeming lifeline to many military operations, truck drivers need to be competent in their driving skills to ensure safe
delivery of cargo, whether transporting in a combat zone, in a training area or through
a garrison.
Understanding the military's need for competent truck drivers, the 58th Transportation Battalion of the 3rd Chemical Brigade initiated the building of an obstacle course for student drivers of the 5-ton M1083A1 medium tactical vehicle. With the help of the Directorate of Public Works, construction was finally completed in June.
"Lt. Col. Corey Cook, commander of the 58th Trans. Bn. is always looking for ways
to challenge and motivate
Soldiers going through initial entry training. He has definitely set the bar high with the obstacle course at Training Area 236," said Steve Keeth, course chief.
According to Keeth, the trucks provide tactical unit mobility and logistics for mission-essential tasks offering a payload of up to 10,000 pounds.
"The course is designed to build confidence when operating these vehicles," said Bill Hurst, training specialist,
explaining that the course is made up of 10 diverse obstacles designed to expose drivers to numerous challenging driving situations.
After several weeks of use, the track proves to enhance the Soldiers' specialty skills and technical abilities as they maneuver light and medium tactical vehicles through the varying obstacles, Keeth said.
"We hope (the skills learned) will fall in line with a FORSCOM unit when (our Soldiers) report to their next assignment and fulfill their duties as transporters," he said.
The training forces newly-minted operators to successfully conquer rocky terrain, vertical walls, telephone pole moguls and deep ditches, concluding with an estimated 45-degree incline and decline, known as the confidence hill, and a water trough, where drivers must forge through two and a half feet of water.
Overall, the course simulates what may be encountered when driving through unimproved roads downrange, and according to Sgt. Jason Emery, instructor writer for the 58th Trans. Bn., it'll strengthen the abilities of the drivers as they wind through the series of obstacles.
"A lot of people are scared when first driving these vehicles, but it's because they don't know what the vehicles can do," he said.
According to some students, the course has helped them understand what a 5-ton truck can overcome.
"The training has been fun ... I was scared to drive the trucks, but the training has taken away the fear," said Spc. Lindsay Lyon, student.
"Before going through the course, I thought it was impossible to transport through certain terrain, but these vehicles can really go wherever you want it to go. The course has built my confidence and helped me to understand the vehicle's capabilities," added Pvt. William Murillo, also a student.
The course will continue to serve as a training area for aspiring truck drivers to practice and learn the skills needed to be a motor transport operator.

(Emily Athens is a photojournalist assigned to the Fort Leonard Wood GUIDON newspaper.)