You’re transitioning out of the military and looking for a job. You know your clearance is worth a lot of money in the civilian world, but when you type “security clearance” into Google and what are you presented with? “Cyber-security” and “network administration” and “Java programmer.” Those are great jobs, no doubt, but you weren’t a computer programmer in the Army. You don’t even know the Army had computer programmers!
Like tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines (including the one writing this article), there’s a good chance at some point in your military career, you were a truck driver. You could PMCS an LMTV in your sleep. You’ve driven more miles in the combat zone than you’ve driven in the United States. Even today, still, you see a Pepsi can on the side of the road and eye it warily. What’s that thing hiding? You’ve known the fear of an accidental 240B discharge from a Humvee turret, or the fear of the same weapon jamming when you want it to discharge. You can back-alley-dock a tractor trailer with six inches to spare on each side.
The point is: you know how to drive (and even live in!) big trucks safely. You know the logistics of movement. You know the paperwork required. You know the job—and with your security clearance, there are some pretty incredible careers waiting for you on the outside. Best of all, the only java they require is the kind you drink.
FAST TRACK TO A CDL
If your contract is almost up and you’re planning to return to civilian life, there are some federal initiatives you need to know about. The commercial drivers license test (CDL) is hard and nerve wracking, and it costs a lot of money to train for it. Thanks to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s “Military Skills Test Waiver Program,” however, military drivers who meet certain qualifications are exempt from the driving test when they transition to the civilian world.
Those requirements are: You have not been out of the military for longer than one year (some states limit this to 90 days, and states have the final say); you’ve not held more than one state driver’s license within the last two years (military licenses are OK); your license has never been suspended or worse; and you’ve never been convicted of any infraction that would disqualify any other CDL applicant.
If you were an Army 88M or Marine Corps 353X, you likely qualify for the highest level commercial drivers license—Class A—allowing you also to avoid spending several thousands dollars on attending trucking school. The Application for Military Skills Test Waiver can be downloaded here.
“NOTHING HAPPENS UNTIL SOMETHING MOVES”
Your CDL can get you far in the civilian world, both literally and figuratively. If you want to drive, the jobs are there. But if you hold a security clearance and a CDL, there are jobs available you might never have thought possible working for companies you never considered. So what jobs are available for someone with a CDL (or eligibility for one) and a security clearance?
How about hauling spaceships? Northrop Grumman in California needs CDL drivers with a secret security clearance to move “materials, merchandise or equipment within an industrial area” locally and nationally—an excellent opportunity to join the company’s Goods Movement organization “supporting multiple programs and multiple divisions.” Sounds a bit dry, yes, but a big part of the Goods Movement & Logistics division at Northrop involves transport for the company’s military aircraft and space programs. So while your friends are hauling trailers filled with canned goods, you could be hauling parts for the Mars base.
If aerospace isn’t your thing, how about working with hazardous material? That’s a pretty broad category, I admit—are we talking plutonium or diesel?—but whatever you’re moving, you’re going to need a security clearance investigation, something truckers aren’t necessarily known for passing with flying colors. If you think this has something to do with terrorism, you are correct, and the Department of Homeland Security has to handle your clearance. Of course, if you are already cleared, you’re in business. Among those hiring drivers with a CDL and a secret clearance? AECOM in Virginia and SKC in Maryland.
Though it’s not as sexy as rocket-ships and nuclear bomb fuel, if you hold a clearance and a CDL, you can always get a warehouse job at any number of companies in the defense sector. It’s going to pay a whole lot more than your typical warehouse job, and if you need a clearance to move a pallet, chances are there are going to be some pretty interesting things strapped to it. SpectraTech is one such company doing the hiring.
If none of those places interest you, there’s always your fallback job: you could work at the White House. The president of the United States doesn’t exactly travel with a light footprint, and those vehicles have to be driven by somebody. The Army Transportation Corps takes a big percentage of those jobs (bet your retention NCO didn’t tell you that!), but not all of them. Keep your ear to the railroad tracks and you might one day be holding the door for the commander-in-chief. That’s better than a cybersecurity job any day.