JA Frate’s Green to Gold program helps veterans get driving credentials

The program has helped three veterans be employed while staying close to home

U.S. Army veteran Jordan Wade performs a pre-check before he drives a truck for JA Frate in Crystal Lake. Jordan took part in JA Frate's Green to Gold program that trains drivers to become licensed and more experienced drivers.

Crystal Lake-based logistics company JA Frate is no stranger to supporting veterans, from dedicating semitrailers to service personnel killed in action to having an extensive history of hiring veterans and supporting veteran organizations.

The logistics company’s latest effort is the Green to Gold program that teaches drivers to get additional experience and credentials.

The program was developed by JA Frate safety coordinator Bob Hogie and Director of Operations Shane Nerby, who are both veterans. Creating the program began in 2021 and took about a year and a half, Hogie said.

“It was really hard to find those younger individuals that wanted to go into trucking or logistics transportation,” Nerby said.

The name “Green to Gold” is a military reference of enlisted “green” soldiers going to “gold” Army officers.

“When you’re green, you’re new and when you get to gold, you’re in a stellar program,” Hogie said.

Many new drivers have to drive across the country to gain further credentials. JA Frate allows drivers to stay home and work locally while getting the necessary licenses.

This is naturally attractive to veterans, who have experience driving large vehicles and don’t want to leave their homes and families again, Nerby said. Of the four drivers who have been in the program so far, three were veterans.

“I think they have a tendency to gravitate to each other,” Hogie said on why he thinks JA Frate is a veteran-friendly company.

Drivers complete the programs within eight to 12 weeks. JA Frate hosts a small “graduation” ceremony at the completion of the program. It’s a way to give appreciation for both the seasoned drivers training and the new drivers for their dedication, JA Frate President Jill Dinsmore said.

Hogie said the program is an investment to train the drivers, but will pay off over time as the company recruits loyal and trustworthy drivers.

Nerby found JA Frate after returning from the military about 12 years ago. He said the company’s culture and workflow is a natural fit for veterans.

“It’s scary getting out of the military at a young age,” Nerby said. “You don’t know what you’re going to do when you get home.”

Since veterans typically have training with large vehicles, learning the program typically comes natural to them, Nerby said. They just never received the certifications required by employers to operate them.

“They always have a plan of action,” he said. “They always position themselves to have an out, so to say.”

JA Frate always is looking for drivers, Nerby said. “Especially veterans. It’s like a shoe-in.”

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