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Iraq vet Erik Tremblay of Georgetown feels at home behind the wheel

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/File 2010

Erik Tremblay , Georgetown

Erik Tremblay is at ease in the driver’s seat of a tow truck, hauling broken-down 18-wheelers on the highway. It sometimes reminds him of driving fire trucks over dusty terrain in Iraq, where he served two tours of duty in the Marines.

“My Marine training helped me out,” said Tremblay, 31, who now works at Export Towing in Medford. “I knew how to maneuver large vehicles. I felt at home behind the wheel.”

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Tremblay received eight ribbons and medals for his service in Iraq. But there was no job waiting for him when he returned home to Georgetown in 2010. After his first deployment, he worked as a tow-truck driver at a local garage, and got hooked on towing vehicles.

“I liked the idea that I was helping people,” said Tremblay.

He discussed his options with Eric Nelson, veterans counselor at Valley Works Career Center in Lawrence.

“As a fellow veteran, he understood what I was going through, trying to adjust, looking for work,” Tremblay said.

Just as his unemployment benefits were running out, Nelson arranged for him to receive a $5,000 federal grant to study for a Class A commercial driver’s license at a tractor-trailer school in North Andover. Tremblay needed the license to tow large vehicles.

“In Erik’s case, the money is very well spent,” Nelson said. “He did great in school, held the highest academic average in the class. I believe he graduated with a 4.0 GPA.”

Tremblay learned to drive trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds. He spent one week in a classroom, learning the rules on transporting hazardous materials and cargo, and how to inspect large trucks, among other skills. For three weeks he practiced parallel parking, backing up to a loading dock, and other maneuvers.

“It was a very good course,” he said. “I couldn’t have afforded it on my own. Without this license, I wouldn’t have a job.”

His road to steady employment got off to a rough start, however.

Tremblay was fired from his first job after he brought guns to work in the company tow truck. He is licensed to carry the guns, and planned to go to the shooting range after work, he said.

“It was my wrecker to take home with me, but they said having the guns in it was a violation of company policy,” Tremblay said.

He landed a new job at a tow-truck operation owned by a fellow veteran. But the job had no benefits, so he left last August to join Export Towing, where he gets better pay and insurance.

“It’s a good paycheck,” he said. “I am happy to go to work.”

Kathy McCabe can be reached at KMcCabe@Globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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