U.S. Army - E-8 - 88H
As 10-year-old Brent Stoufer watched military airmen leap from their plane, he knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps. Even through the television screen, he could see their precise movements and courage in the face of danger, and they inspired Brent to set an early goal to join this elite team.
On Jan. 31, 1986, Brent followed through on that goal and enlisted as a private in the Army. He became an airman and then transferred into logistics coordination after an injury. By the time he became an 88H, Brent was a 1st sergeant but asked officers to treat him like a private. “I told them, ‘Give me the grunt work’ because that’s the kind of work that makes you learn. I wanted to understand logistics from the ground up.”
Looking back on his 27 years of military service, Brent sees how his time as an 88H prepared him for a trucking career back in the states. In Service Deployment and Distribution Command (NDDC), he was responsible for coordinating the movement of all foreign and domestic military equipment. Brent saw firsthand that “Nothing gets done until something moves.” The realization of how important the transportation industry is to our nation made him look into trucking jobs when he returned home.
Brent’s hometown is near J.B. Hunt’s base of operations in Lowell, Ark., and he knew that this could the perfect place to start his career. He recalls that he knew J.B. Hunt had great equipment and took care of their drivers. “They understood what it’s like to work with military veterans,” Brent said, “so I could tell it would be a good fit for me.”
Brent approached his new job like he had his military career. In both, he started at the ground floor in order to learn and rise in the ranks. “I wanted to learn this industry from the ground up, as if I were a private again,” Brent said. “I needed to know the basics first. And then I could advance my career with that knowledge.”
That tactic has paid off. Brent is now one of J.B. Hunt’s top drivers and was one of the first people to participate in Hunt’s Heroes—he even participated in the creation of the program’s logo. His direct supervisor Jerome Burris recognizes Brent as someone who others can look to for guidance: “It's great working with Brent. He's always early, takes care of his equipment and he sets a great example for others to follow."
Many of his fellow drivers do look to Brent’s example. He takes specifical care to guide transitioning service members as they get used to life as a J.B. Hunt driver by giving them two solid pieces of advice: obey the rules of the road and keep an open mind.
“You can’t come into a new career thinking that you already know everything. It just doesn’t work like that,” Brent said. “Stay humble, and keep that military discipline. You need to learn how to drive commercially. When people see a camouflaged convoy coming down the road, they get out of the way. That gives you a little leeway, but commercial drivers don’t have that same privilege. You have to work harder to be safe.”
“In the end,” Brent continued, “Driving is not always easy, but it is rewarding. Just keep an open mind and be willing to learn from other drivers who have dedicated their lives to this. They have a ton of things to teach if you listen.”