Guard training, benefits prepare members for civilian success

Spc. Becca Nikolas, a motor transport operator with the 175th Forward Support Company, 1st Battalion of the 151st Field Artillery Regiment, is proud to be serving in the Minnesota National Guard.

“What I’m doing is for more than just me,” said Nikolas.

Nearly five years ago, Nikolas enlisted to carry on a tradition of service within her family. At the time, she was the first to serve in her generation. Fast forward to now, and she couldn’t imagine life any other way.

“The best people I’ve met in my life are due to the military,” she added. “And the best people that you can surround yourself with are the people in the Guard.”

As a motor transport operator, also known in the Army as an 88M or ’88 Mike,’ Nikolas is responsible for driving heavy trucks through all terrains and any kind of weather to safely and securely transporting people and equipment.

“This [job] is critical to the Minnesota National Guard,” said Army Lt. Col. Jesse Johnson, the director of logistics for the Minnesota National Guard. “It is the backbone for the sustainment community.”

In addition to being a critical job, motor transport operators have a unique opportunity to develop skills that can translate to civilian jobs. After completing the six-week-long advanced individual training, service members can take the road test and get a civilian commercial truck driver’s license without having to go through additional schooling, opening up the door for a new civilian career.

“This job creates opportunities for our Soldiers to compete in the transportation industry,” added Johnson. “From the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the transportation and material occupation is expected to grow above other services industries in the next 10 years with almost two million jobs opening up annually. The knowledge and experience gained through schooling and unit training will enable our Soldiers to position themselves into a healthy industry with a positive growth outlook.”

For Nikolas, the appeal of serving in the military and having a civilian career made the decision between serving in the Guard compared to the active component easy. As a teacher and a new mom to six-month-old Britley, Nikolas enjoys pushing her limits to find out what she is capable of. Nikolas is planning to compete in her unit’s best warrior competition this month. She says that being a part of the military has encouraged her to take on new challenges like this. She hopes to become a noncommissioned officer soon and wants to serve as long as she can.

“The health benefits, TRICARE [insurance], dental and all that, you can’t beat it,” said Nikolas. “We don’t have to worry about what kind of dent it’s going to make on our bank accounts when we go to the doctor. And the education benefits are beyond amazing.”

For her, a typical drill involves training on and servicing military vehicles. She noted that it is important to make sure that the vehicles are all in working condition for whenever the unit may need them.

Staff Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

December 12, 2023