There’s little argument that operating a big rig on today’s crowded highways is more than a little dangerous, especially among four-wheelers motorists who often display little if no regard for safe driving practices.
Throw in bad weather, however – say, snow or 100 mph winds – and piloting a commercial truck quickly becomes a nightmare.
Yet the U.S. Marine Corps not only train their drivers to handle such scenarios, they throw in bullets and bombs for good measure – all part of a unique licensing course open to all branches of the U.S. military.
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It’s called the Motor Vehicle Incidental Drivers School or “MVIDS” and it’s based at Camp Lejeune, NC, one of the more storied locations in the vast pantheon of USMC history.
The course includes both simulator training as well “live” vehicle operation focused on mastering the operational intricacies of equipment such as the new Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle or “M-ATV.”
The simulator (seen at left) helps train Marines to handle “extreme conditions” such as heavy snow and 100 mph winds, plus bullets and bombs in ambush situations.
“You never know whenever you’re in a combat environment and you might have to drive,” noted Cpl. Tim Wood, one of the instructors at MVIDS. “It’s the same concept as if a Marine went on a foot patrol. We don’t want a Marine to have to get behind the wheel of a 7-ton [truck] and not know what they’re doing.”
The school allows service members from any background to come out and receive the same training as Marines in the motor transportation field, said Wood, and mimics the training Marines receive when they prepare “military occupational specialties” in motor transportation.
Though any Marine can take this course and warrant the qualifications, he added, Marines who specialize in transport can attend the courses to benefit themselves and become more of an asset to their respective units.
Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Mumper, the director of MVIDS, emphasized the ability of specialized motor transportation Marines to be able to come to this school in order to enhance their current licenses.
He noted that courses start in a basic classroom setting with instructions, followed by written tests and simulator time. After students complete both the written tests and simulator experience, they must drive a set number of miles and perform skills tests with real vehicles.
These specific tests consist of both day and night driving and require the driver to properly maneuver the vehicle with confidence, Mumper pointed out – stressing that not all drivers pass this course when they come through the school, though drivers can retake the class at a later time.
“If somebody doesn’t complete the course, we give them a learner’s permit and they go back to their individual unit,” Mumper emphasized. “From there, they have to ride with a licensed driver until they get more road miles. When they’re ready, they can come back at a later date in order to retest.”