Hanks Paves Her Own Way to Successful Military, Truck Driving Career

Air+Force+veteran+Summar+Hanks%2C+a+2008+Crowley+High+School+graduate%2C+has+been+deployed+to+Kuwait+during+her+military+career.

Photo courtesy of Summar Hanks

Air Force veteran Summar Hanks, a 2008 Crowley High School graduate, has been deployed to Kuwait during her military career.

Video courtesy of U.S. Xpress

Summar Hanks, a 2008 Crowley High graduate, has proven that she can succeed at whatever she puts her mind to.

Despite receiving some college scholarships during her senior year at CHS, Hanks decided that she wanted to join the military.  “They had recruiters of all branches that came to school to talk to the teenagers,” she recalled.

The more she found out about the Air Force, the more interested she became.

Fontenot, however, did not weigh enough and had to gain at least 10 pounds to enlist.  She also needed to be able to do the 1 ½-mile run in less than 16 minutes and more than 15 pushups and 30 situps in a minute.  “At the recruiting office, we would prepare for the physical requirements of the Air Force.

“It was difficult to meet the requirements,” she admitted.  “It was all mental for me.  I didn’t think I could run a quick 1 ½ miles because (middle school) track, I was used to running long runs, but I was slow.  I had to train myself to be more physically and mentally fit.”

Because she was only 17 at the time, Hanks received her parents’ approval to go to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in New Orleans in Jan. 2008 to be sworn into the Air Force as an active duty member.

Summar Hanks holds the U.S. flag while she served as a member of the honor guard while she was deployed in Kuwait. (Photo courtesy of Summar Hanks)

The 31-year-old technical sergeant, who grew up in Roberts Cove, has lived in Abilene, Texas, Gulfport, Miss., Las Vegas, and Seoul, South Korea.  She has also been deployed to Kuwait.

Hanks met one of her best friends, Brittany Jaramillo, on New Year’s Eve 2009 when the two of them were stationed in Abilene, Texas together.

Jaramillo, 30, is from Baytown, Texas.  “Summer and I hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since,” Jaramillo said.  “I could literally tell her anything and everything, and it’s cool.   She was even at my wedding.  We were also roommates in Vegas well after I left the military.

“We didn’t get to deploy together, but we were deployed at the same time, which was great because we were in the same time zone, so we caught up often.”

Another memorable experience Jamarillio recalled was when the two of them participated in the Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. in 2018.  “It was the best because I hadn’t seen Summar in like a year, so to go on a road trip from Crowley to Washington and back was great,” said Jamarillo.  “She’s the only person I could be in a vehicle for over 24 hours and we’re still cool.  We just talk a lot and jam to the same music.  Music and chilling have always been our thing.”

Nowadays, the two of them only see each other once or twice a year, but they still communicate often.

Hanks worked as an information management specialist until she switched to heavy equipment operator on April 2, 2019.

She also did three years in the Air National Guard, but she recently switched to the reserves. “If I stayed active duty, I was going to be stationed in Nevada for a few more years, then who knows where after,” she explained.  “I’m adventurous and all, but I guess I was ready to have a place to call home.”  She has since purchased a house in Slidell.

Hanks has an associate’s in information management through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) in Montgomery, Ala., and a bachelor’s in business administration through Trident University in Cypress, Ca.  She also did five months of trucking school at Diesel Driving Academy in Baton Rouge from Dec. 2016 until April 2017.

Hanks is currently stationed at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in New Orleans.  “I drive cross-country for a month at a time until it is time to go to drill one weekend out of the month.”

Hanks, who began driving trucks a few years ago, has driven for U.S. Xpress and Transport America and now has her own company.  “I’ve been to almost every state as a cross-country truck driver.”

During her time driving for U.S. Xpress, Hanks drove the Air Force truck from their military fleet, and she also had

Summar Hanks stands in front of the U.S. Xpress truck she drove (Photo courtesy of Summar Hanks)

the opportunity to compete against other rookie truck drivers from across the country for the FASTPORT Transition Trucking:  Driving for Excellence Award. The contest began in March 2018 when she was nominated and ended in December when the top five finalists were invited to attend the Great American Trucking Showing in Dallas.  Hanks finished second in the contest and received $5,000.

Don Moore, military recruiting manager for U.S. Xpress, attended the awards ceremony to support Hanks.  “While attending driver appreciation day in Olive Branch, Miss., I was so impressed with her infectious smile and her willingness to be an ambassador for U.S. Xpress.

She took picture after picture with other drivers and our staff from the Olive Branch terminal.  I knew then and there that we had a natural recruiting professional in our midst,” said Moore.

Hanks mentioned what the contest did for her.  “It introduced me to lots of industry professionals, military officials, and media outlets,” she said. “It also led me to start thinking about a life on the road towards an entrepreneurial career.”

She expressed her feelings about why she enjoys this career.  “Everything!  I love driving.  I am my own boss. When I am on the road, I have either music or educational audios playing, and I enjoy the scenery.  After I deliver a load, sometimes I have the pleasure of shutting down and taking a break at that location.  (U.S. Xpress) has a drop yard in Kearny, N.J.  I had some downtime, so I took an Uber to downtown New York.  Driving cross-country has brought me to many places that I’ve always wanted to visit but never had the chance.  Now, it’s my job to visit beautiful places.  I tell people that I do not work anymore, I travel!

Photo courtesy of Summar Hanks

Hanks had some final words of advice.  “I have now been in the Air Force for over 13 years, and I have created a foundation for both my military and civilian career. My little brother, Andrew Fontenot, who is now 22 years old, has his commercial license, too. He is also a Crowley High graduate. We team together cross country, then come home once a month as independent contractors within our own corporation.

“This has been a really fun adventure. There are no limits to what you can achieve in life. I challenge young people to go forth and conquer opportunities.”