Every time PAM Dedicated Lane Driver Steve Reeves hits the road, he’s not just earning a paycheck; he’s honoring other fellow U.S. veterans as part of PAM’s Patriot Ride Fleet.
“I’m kind of a rolling ambassador for the U.S. Army and for PAM,” says Steve. “Have you seen any pictures of the truck? We get a lot of attention!”
After driving for PAM for 17 years, Steve still enjoys showing off the Army-themed Patriot Ride truck. He says a quick grocery stop at Walmart can easily turn into a 45-minute to an hour photo session with the truck and curious onlookers, especially veterans.
“When fellow vets stop to talk to me, I ask them, ‘What do you think about our truck?’ I don’t say my truck,” he says. “That’s because PAM put a lot of money into this truck for us. They want you to know somebody is thinking about vets like us.”
Honoring PAM Driver, U.S. Army Veteran Steve Reeves
Steve served in the U.S. Army as a medical specialist in clinics and hospitals from 1975 to 1978, during a time when soldiers weren’t getting a lot of respect when returning from Vietnam.
“There was a lot of animosity towards soldiers then and a lot of them were being treated unfairly,” he says. “Now that I’m driving a Patriot Ride truck, I feel like it’s my overdue thank you to all of those vets who went through that.”
After the military, Steve tried several career paths, from a guide/packer for Yosemite National Park to serving in law enforcement for five years. But it wasn’t until he tried trucking that he found a real connection to a civilian career.
“I dabbled with trucks in high school when I worked at a material yard,” he says. “They let me take the trucks for deliveries so I learned to shift and double-clutch and all of that.”
When law enforcement didn’t work out, Steve decided to use his GI Bill Benefits to get his CDL. He’s been driving a truck ever since and he hasn’t looked back.
“Today I think about where I’d be in my driving career if I had started as soon as I got out of the military,” he says. “I could have been a lot further down the road, both professionally and financially.”
Steve says PAM goes the extra mile to help transition veterans into civilian careers, with a 12-month paid training program designed to help vets master the necessary skills to become professional truck drivers. Plus, veterans can now earn up to $1,900 a month in a housing allowance through their Honor Road Apprenticeship Program.
PAM’s financial incentives and support enabled Steve to move from Oklahoma to Arkansas to care for his father, who is a Korean veteran with advanced Alzheimers. Because Steve is a Dedicated Lane driver, he can be home on weekends to care for his father and mother.
“But not everyone coming out of the military wants to be home on weekends,” Steve adds. “Some still have wanderlust and want to see the country. PAM gives you the opportunity to do that. When I first came back from the military I was ‘wound up’ a bit. It wasn’t until I became a driver on the open road I was able to collect my thoughts and get in touch with things.”
Steve notes that a lot of veterans don’t realize the value of getting a CDL when beginning civilian life. He says many men and women don’t know where they want to go with their lives when they first leave the service.
“That CDL goes anywhere with you,” Steve adds. “You can easily transition to another state. You may decide to try another job after driving. Maybe that job doesn’t work out. Well guess what, when you have a CDL you can always go back to truck driving! It gives you the opportunity to make a living while you figure out where else you want to go with your life.”
Why Vets Thrive in Driving Careers
One of the many reasons Steve chose a driving career was that he knew the military had given him the skill sets he needed to complete his driving training. And he’s not alone. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that military veterans bring a much wider range of job experience and hands-on expertise, compared to new college grads.
Here are just a few of the reasons employers like PAM seek out vets:
- Many veterans already have management training from their leadership roles in the military.
- They get teamwork because they’ve worked in environments where everyone has to pull together to get the job done.
- Veterans are great problem-solvers and can make tough decisions under pressure.
- They come with security clearance and are often “globally-minded” from working with diverse groups of people in the field.
- They have incredible attention to detail because even a single, small mistake could spell disaster in the field.
“Veterans are easier to train,” Steve says. “In the military, when we weren’t busy with tasks we were always upgrading our training. When you leave the service, you come out with that aptitude for learning.”
“Cameron Garrett, who drives our PAM Air Force truck, drove convoys in Afghanistan, so he already had driving experience! It’s not surprising that Cameron and his wife, Diamond, are one of our best PAM driving teams.”
But even though veterans like Steve and Cameron came to PAM with previous driving experience, it wasn’t easy transitioning to civilian life.
“When I got out of the Army, I remember thinking, ‘Where do I go from here?’” Steve says. “I thought, ‘What direction do I take now?’ Driving gave me that direction.”
Steve says PAM’s transition seminars and on-going career support can help relieve the anxiety of life after the military.
Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Careers
All U.S. military personnel are required to attend civilian hiring seminars when they have 18 months or less to serve. PAM partners with organizations like Hiring Our Heroes and Soldier for Life to help military men and women weigh their post-service career options.
PAM Transport Military Recruiter Marvin Johnson conducts military transition seminars at these hiring events at bases across the country, where he talks about the many benefits of a career in transportation, such as the opportunity to earn a living while seeing the country.
“Driving isn’t like a lot of civilian jobs where you have to start at the bottom and work your way up,” Marvin says. “At PAM, you can earn a good wage your first year. Now, thanks to a tax-free stipend from the V.A., vets can receive up to a $1,900 a month housing allowance. That’s in addition to your regular driver pay!”
He notes that veterans can use their GI Bill Benefits to pay for CDL school, while still qualifying for the tax-free V.A. stipend to cover living expenses while still in training.
“In addition to earning a good wage, PAM offers numerous career paths for veterans to begin civilian life,” Marvin says. “You can continue to see the world, or you can stay closer to home as a local or regional driver in a Dedicated Lane. After you’ve learned the ropes, you can even help other new drivers as a Driver Mentor.”
PAM also offers the opportunity for veterans to start their own businesses as Owner Operators through their Overdrive Lease Program. Student drivers only have to drive for PAM for six months to qualify for the lease program.
“At PAM, we want to make sure veterans know there are many roads open to them for a new, civilian career,” Marvin says. “That support doesn’t end when you get hired. We’re here to support you throughout your entire PAM journey.”
Learn more about the Honor Road Apprenticeship Program for U.S. Veterans, including how vets can earn up to $1,900 a month housing allowance, by calling PAM at (888) 979-7013, or visit us at pamdrivingjobs.com/training/military.