Veterans are all about service, which is one of the many reasons they thrive in the commercial vehicle service and repair sector. In this new Fleet Maintenance series, we will be highlighting the men and women who chose at one time to serve their country, and continue to serve by ensuring the nation's commercial vehicle operators can execute their mission.
We also hope this will shed light on the overall benefits that vets provide, from productivity to reliability. And, oh, the stories they tell...
Kelby (Moore) McAnally | Staff Sergeant | U.S. Army Reserves
Service Triage Technician | Rush Truck Centers
Kelby McAnally knows a thing our two about overcoming adversity. During the Army Reserves enlistment process in 2006, a physical showed the Maine native was pregnant, so she had to wait a year. Then a back injury delay pushed it back even more.
She eventually wound up as a truck driver in Afghanistan, where she supported efforts to build infrastructure by hauling supplies as part of an engineer battalion. Here she learned how to do pre-trip inspections, change oil, and handle other basic maintenance tasks. Except for the military grade hardware, it was fairly similar to being a trucker in the states.
Other things weren’t so basic. When she’d hear enemy rounds bounce off her armored vehicle, her orders were to “floor it,” she said. She also recalled a time she drove over an improvised explosive device (IED), but the enemy for some reason never manually detonated the roadside bomb. Maybe nature called at the right time, she suggested.
It was dangerous work, sure, but also fascinating. When her vehicle would do down, McAnally would ask the mechanics what went wrong and how to fix it. She learned about the different components and how they worked together.
“It really sparked my interest because I like puzzles,” she said. “And a truck to me is basically just a giant logic puzzle.”
McAnally came home and used her G.I. Bill money to attend Universal Technical Institute outside of Boston. The educational benefit allowed her to stay longer than most and take extra classes, and by the end she learned how to work on Ford, Cummins, and Peterbilt engines.
Trying to establish a steady career as a civilian (while remaining in the Reserves) wasn’t always smooth. In the shop, someone clanging a wrench on the ground could trigger memories of those ricocheting rounds. She still has to catch herself from delivering an elbow if someone quietly walks up from behind to tap her on the shoulder.
Through it all she has persevered, and now, as a service triage technician for Rush Truck Center location in Beaumont, Texas, she is the go-to employee for Blue Bird bus issues, the only one the shop certified to work on them. McAnally also works on her share of Ford work trucks and preps the new Peterbilt Model 589s before going out to customers. Her husband also works for Rush as a mobile technician.
McAnally said the military helped her develop a thicker skin, so on the rare occasion a male customer insinuates she shouldn’t be working on his truck, “the negative comments roll right off.”
In 2022, McAnally was also the first female diagnostic technician to land a spot in the companywide skills competition, Rush Rodeo. She qualified for the Paccar MX Heavy-Duty Service Division.
Another female technician, Se’ara Hart, also competed in the paint division.
About 2,000 Rush technicians took tests to qualify, with the top 10% being invited to the competition in San Antonio last December. McAnally was the only one recovering from breast cancer surgery.
“I just jumped back on my tools at the end of September and our testing is in the beginning of October,” McAnally told Fleet Maintenance at the 2022 Rush Rodeo. “So, I’ve been out for a year and a lot of stuff has changed. So, it was a lot of catch-up for me to try to jump back into it.”
Through it all, McAnally represents the best of what a veteran can be: someone who doesn’t know how to quit or make excuses. She just finds a way to survive and succeed.
“I don't feel like being a female mechanic is that different than being a male mechanic except that the physical demands are a little different,” she offered. “We build muscle differently, so we have to leverage things differently.”