Verretta Johnson, Air Force Active Reserve

Verretta Johnson is a fleet safety and training instructor at Omnitrans who also serves as Air Force Active Reserve. She first joined the military just before she turned 22.

“I was living in Oxnard with my parents and knew that I wanted more. I loved being around people.  I loved to travel and wanted a career.  I didn’t want to be that person who spends her entire life in the same little town she grew up in. So I went down to the recruiting office and signed up for the Air Force.”

For years she was stationed in Riverside, never imagining she would ever be involved in a war. Then everything changed with Operation Just Cause. Verretta was given orders for Panama and instructed that her family would not be allowed to come with her. This was a devastating blow because she had recently gone through a divorce and had two small children who were 2 and 5 at the time. The two children would have to live with her mother over the next year.

“When I arrived there I immediately knew why. Huge tanks, demolished buildings and cement barricades were everywhere. I would wake up to the sounds of bombs dropping.  It was a definite life changer for me.  The bowling alley became the morgue. The supply warehouse for cold storage held the bodies. I woke up early one morning and saw a flatbed truck piled with body bags. When the driver made the turn, one of them rolled to the ground. It was a nightmare. Houses and apartment complexes were being blown to pieces while they were looking for Noriega. They would tell us that a couple of hundred people had been killed, but it was much more than that. These were 14 story high apartment buildings!  You knew that innocent civilians are being killed. There is nothing that can prepare you for that. My job was in supply, mostly keeping track of weapons-everyone was accountable for their equipment. Often I was getting up at 3 a.m. to retrieve top secret information from the safe for officers.”

“Despite it all Panama itself was beautiful. I could go outside and pick a mango off a tree. There were rich jungles, and animals like lemurs and iguana. The natives were some of the most gorgeous people I had ever seen in my life.  I would love to retire and live there. The food was amazing. You could go to the beach and get your food right out of the ocean within 5 minutes. Friends in the army and marines would come over and cook for shrimp and giant lobsters for us. We were pretty much restricted but made the best of it.”

“After 7 months I was finally allowed to go home to see my children. My mom hadn’t been letting them watch TV because the oldest knew where I was, and they were always showing pictures of Panama burning and all that. The hardest part came when I finally had to go back. My son grabbed leg, screamed and cried. It broke my heart, and I promised him I would never leave him again. Soon after, the Air Force began downsizing and offering people the opportunity to get out of the military. So I left active duty.”

“Once my kids were grown I decided to return and re-enlist in the Air Force at 50.  A lot had changed. They now have new fitness requirements every 6 months that include runs, sit-ups, and men’s push-ups—things that are a lot harder to do when you’re 50.  When I first enlisted, we had rolodexes, microfiche and binders. Now everything is electronic with ID card long ins. I had to start from scratch and learn new things. On top of that I was training these young people who are my kids age, and they are looking up to me because of my rank and my maturity level. I had to make sure I could train them and teach them what they needed to do. You want to make sure they are prepared. “

“I love the military and really hope I can continue. I don’t know how long my body will let me hold out, but as long as I can do it I will. I would like to put in my 20 years.  I love this sense of commitment and trying to do a good job and knowing that it matters. Coming from the military to Omnitrans was very much the same. When I’m training, I need to make sure that my students know what they’re doing and can do a good job. Just like in the military, anything can happen. You have to know how to handle yourself because there is no time to think about it.”

“I have friends I met in basic training who are still close friends today. We all celebrated our 50th birthday together. It’s like Omnitrans. You’re here for so long that people become like family and you look out for each other. Military was no different. You see each other through births, deaths, divorces, hardships, everything. You’ve been through so much together that you understand each other better than anyone else.  You would never leave a soldier behind or a coach operator stranded in the road. That’s just the way it is.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Joins ABC7, Firefighters in Toy Drive

Omnitrans and Buster join Santa and Southern California Firefighters, along with Garth Kemp and ABC7 to bring smiles to the faces of hundreds of children this holiday season.

The 20th Annual Spark of Love Toy Drive “Stuff a Bus” Event will take place on Friday, November 30th between 4:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m at Mathis Bros. Furniture at 4105 E. Inland Empire Blvd. in Ontario.

The “Spark of Love” Toy Drive collects new, unwrapped toys and games for underserved children throughout Southern California, and last year distributed more than 600,000 toys to 3,000 families. All toys collected in San Bernardino County will stay local, and be distributed to kids in surrounding communities.

Community members can participate by bringing a toy to the “Stuff a Bus” event,  or they may drop off a toy at Omnitrans offices, local fire stations or CVS Pharmacy Stores.

To learn more, please visit Click here  or call (818) 863-7777.

Coach Operator Mentors Troubled Youth

Dwaun Roberson served in the Army as an E4 Transportation Specialist. After he completed his service, he was surprised at how difficult it was to get a job back home. “When you’re in the military they tell you that, as a vet, it’s easy to get a job later. But that’s just not the case. I looked and looked and looked for jobs and just couldn’t get a foot in the door. Finally I saw a newspaper ad online for a coach operator position with Omnitrans. A buddy had told me it was hard to get a job there, so I didn’t have high hopes. But I applied anyway, tested, did the interview and have been working here since August.”

Dwaun enjoys the variety that driving provides. “I love it. The passengers you deal with are all different, each has their own personality. Your days are never the same. It helps me stay on my toes and keeps me sharp. “

Although working transportation for the public sector is a little different for Dwaun, he finds there are still many similarities. Safety, he points out, is always a big priority. He feels the training he received in the army well equips him for the constant multitasking involved in his day-to-day work at Omnitrans. “I am trained to be very aware, to know what’s going on around me at all times. At any given time you need to be alert to the road, traffic, animals, people, your vehicle and the passengers on board.”

Eventually Dwaun hopes to get a job in law enforcement and has a particular interest in helping to make a difference in the lives of troubled kids, a group he understands very well. “I grew up as a foster kid,” he says frankly. “My mom was on drugs, my dad drank and wasn’t around. I slept in parks when I was in middle school, surrounded by gangs and everything you can think of. But somehow I never got involved in that stuff and managed to do the right thing. Prayer and music saved me. I’ve been in the music business since I was 7- or 8-years-old. I got involved with a well-known youth choir in LA called Soldiers on Soul Patrol, and we performed for Governor Gray Davis and Mayor Villaraigosa and others. I even toured with Sheila E and Patti LaBelle. I surrounded myself with older, positive people and allowed myself to be led in a positive direction. It gave me focus.”

It’s this kind of mentorship he likes to share with other kids. Before he was laid off, Dwaun worked for security for about 7 months at Perris High School. “I deliberately chose a position where I could be near kids in the worst situations. My goal was to get involved with them, to talk with them, to try to get them to open up and turn their lives around. And I did. These kids told me things they would never tell administration or anyone else, and I’d listen. Sometimes they were worried because they knew I’d have to report something. But they also knew I was acting to make things better for them.”

His message with each kid was always the same. “You can’t blame other people for your actions. You are responsible for what you do. If you blame your mom, your dad, your friends or others you will never get out. You choose what direction you want for yourself and your family. Allow yourself to be led in a positive direction. It’s choice–a mindset.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Diane Caldera, Air Force Active Reserve

Diane Caldera began working for Omnitrans in 2005 as a coach operator. Six months later she became an HR clerk then later moved into Operations to work as a field supervisor. Now she is an assistant transportation manager who supervises, mentors and helps groom others to achieve their goals.

Diane has also served in the Air Force for the past 29 years and is currently a Major in the Active Reserve. Her goal is to reach the 30 year mark and attain the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

“I enlisted in the Air force when I was 21-years old, after completing two years at a junior college. Back in high school I had been a jock, but in those days there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women in professional sports. I knew I needed to develop skills, so I decided to join the Air Force to learn how to type,” laughed Diane. “I figured if I could learn to type, I would always be able get a clerical job.”

She spent the next four years as an active duty admin then entered the reserve. She became a flyer, working as a loadmaster on a huge 141 cargo plane. “There were not many women in that position in the late 80s, so I was something of a pioneer. I interviewed with three different flying squadrons and one of them agreed to take me on. I was responsible for the weight and balance of the aircraft, for the passengers we carried and the upload, download and security of our cargo. We transported everything from people to tractors, trucks, trailers and disassembled aircraft. I loved flying. We worked hard and for very long hours, but it was worth every minute.”

“The Air Force taught me a lot about time management,” Diane continues. “I’m currently on a medical flying mission where our nurses and technical crews actually fly and provide care on board the aircraft. My job is to handle the scheduling of the mission and to plan the details from beginning to end. How many nurses and technicians do we need? Do they have all their required training? How long is the mission? How far do they go? What lodging is available for the crew? What logistics are involved in loading and unloading the cargo? There are so many things that have to be taken into consideration for the successful completion of a mission. It’s the same with war games. You’re getting bombed and have to evacuate. You’ve lost communication. What are you going to do? You learn to forecast and make decisions under pressure.”

Because of her Air Force training, Diane pays close attention when job applicants list military service on their resume. She knows that those people tend to be process-oriented with strong organizational and project management skills. “They bring a lot to the table,” she says. “Because they tend to be very efficient and understand the broader picture, they often develop great ideas for streamlining processes that help us grow as an agency.”

Diane encourages everyone to go into the military for four years. “Especially the flying units, because I know how much fun I had. You’re able to see so many things and experience so much history. I’ve been to Hiroshima in Japan and saw where the A bomb was dropped. I learned to water ski and jet-ski in Wake Island in the Pacific. Europe is a beautiful country, so green and filled with historic old castles. I’ve seen the Pyramids in Egypt and the underground bazaars in Turkey. I’ve even been to Honduras during hurricane relief. I’ve seen the very, very poor as well as the unbelievably wealthy. People’s circumstances can be so vastly different. It reminds you how important it is to walk in someone else’s shoes so you can better understand their perspective. It’s a good lesson.”

In October 1997, Diane became part of the first all-female crew to fly a 141 cargo plane at the dedication of the Women’s Memorial Museum in Arlington Cemetery. The crew did a fly-by presentation and were honored on stage in front of 30,000 people. Their picture hangs in the museum to this day.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Richard Curtis, Vietnam Vet & Omnitrans Rider

We caught up with Richard Curtis at a bus stop in front of the VA hospital in Loma Linda. He is an Omnitrans regular on Route 2. He rides the bus to his appointments at the Loma Linda VA hospital where he also volunteers as a 2nd Floor Concierge four days a week.

The tall quiet vet talked to us about the three tours he served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam where he was shot down three times. “I was a prisoner of war for about nine months in Cambodia, before I managed to escape. The guys that held us used drugs, and while they were high I managed to gain their confidence. I listened to them talk and learned how to speak Vietnamese. They wanted to just sit out the war and not have any problems. Basically if we didn’t give them problems, they wouldn’t give us any. I guess you could say I caught them slipping and took that opportunity to escape.

There were five of us, but we had to split up when they started looking for us. Three of us walked for three days until we were picked up by the Marines. The other two are still missing in action. Afterwards I was in bad shape. I was suffering from malaria and dysentery. I weighed like 119 pounds. I spent about 4 months in recuperation then flew back to Vietnam.”

“I come to the VA now because have problems with my vision. During the war, a rocket exploded in front of my chopper and it almost popped my eyes out. I was bleeding out my eyes and my nose. But the VA Hospital here gives outstanding care, and I come here often.”

Richard paused for a moment, nodding at a couple of the vets who were disembarking from the bus, then continued.

“To tell you the truth, I’d rather ride Omnitrans than ride a car. I really would. The drivers are always courteous and friendly on this route. There’s two buses that run the route back-to-back so it’s pretty efficient and I can always make my appointments on time. Sometimes I read, sometimes I shoot the bull with the other vets that are on the bus. I like Omnitrans.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Honors America’s Veterans

On Veterans Day, our country pays tribute to more than 26 million brave Americans who have served in our armed forces. We owe the many freedoms we often take for granted to their collective sacrifice and dedication. Without them, our nation and world would be an entirely different place. To those who served, we say thank you.

REGISTER ONLINE FOR JOBS AT OMNITRANS.

Military veterans often possess the skills and training that match jobs in public transportation. Veterans and others interested in a career at Omnitrans can sign up to receive notifications of future job openings through the OmniAlerts section of the Omnitrans website, http://www.omnitrans.org. Current openings and general information about working at Omnitrans are posted online at www.omnitrans.org/about/careers/

Omnitrans Employs Vets in Many Roles.

Omnitrans is privileged to have 90 employees who are also military veterans, whom we have listed below. Just as they served our country in a variety of ways, these veterans are deployed in a variety of roles at Omnitrans, from Coach Operator to Equipment Mechanic, Department Director and more. One employee is currently on active duty and two are active reserve. We are proud to have them on our team.

  • Kevin Allen
  • Rick Alverez
  • Carol Angier
  • Joe Armenta
  • Darrell Bell
  • Patrick Belton
  • Mike Bonacio
  • Robin Bose
  • Salvador Botello
  • Allan Bowman
  • Byron Brown
  • Jon Bryant
  • Fausto Bustos
  • Diane Caldera
  • William Carnall
  • Craig Chance
  • Jami Cisneros
  • Edward Cooney
  • William Collins
  • Aron Cook
  • Joanne Cook
  • Kevin Copeland
  • Paul Coussa
  • Thomas Dahlin
  • Joseph Day
  • Leonard Diaz
  • Mark Donley
  • Dennis Eaves
  • John Ellis
  • Raymond Ellis
  • Xavier Estrada
  • Ronald Freeland
  • John Gavin
  • La’ Vern Gerald
  • Terrence Gipson
  • Andres Gomez
  • Scott Graham
  • William Hall Jr
  • Jerry Henry
  • Alejandro Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Manuel Herrera
  • Bryant Hogan
  • Brian Hoppie
  • Roy Hoskinson
  • Dion Igyarto
  • Verretta Johnson
  • Dennis Jones
  • Eric Keeney
  • Michael Kevorkian
  • Joseph Krolik
  • Effie Lee
  • Ralph Ligon
  • Elliot Lipsey
  • George Lizama
  • Ray Lopez
  • Daniel Luna
  • Glennvanni Maiquez
  • John Martinez
  • Albert Matthews
  • Herald Mc Coy
  • Dennis Mc Neir
  • Harold Mc Rant
  • Alan Mooney
  • Robert Neilson
  • Jack Oliver
  • Lionell Olley Sr.
  • Alfred Orozco
  • Gregory Owens
  • Robert Peters
  • Michael Plunkett Jr.
  • Dwaun Roberson
  • Archie Rockwell
  • Alex Rosas
  • Derman Redman
  • Phillip Sosa
  • Joseph Sozanski
  • John Stafford
  • Douglas Stanley
  • John Steffon
  • Hosia Stokes
  • Krafton Stoll
  • Wallace Tatum
  • Willie J Thomas
  • David Torres
  • Emilio Torres
  • Forrest Tucker
  • William Valle
  • Art Villagran
  • Donald Walker
  • Allen Wild
  • Paul Wichman
  • Clarence Wingfield
  • Martin Yedwalsky

PLEASE NOTE: Omnitrans buses will be running as scheduled on Monday, November 12th. However our administrative offices will be closed in observance of the Veterans Day holiday

Robin Bose, Omnitrans coach operator, retired Army

Coach operator Robin Bose enlisted in the Army when he was 21 and became a helicopter crew chief. He says the military taught him to grow up and become more disciplined.

“I learned not to be a whiner, but just to take it on the chin. In the Army sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, but you learn to just do it and ask questions later. And it feels good to know that you actually accomplished something.”

Robin first learned about Omnitrans through a veteran’s job fair. He applied, went through all the training and has been working as a coach operator for the past 17 years. “I like driving. I’m outside and get to meet a lot of different people. I’ve gotten to know some of the vets who ride the Route 2 to go to the VA hospital. Several of them I know by name. There’s a lot of camaraderie there. I just really enjoy meeting people.”

In fact, meeting people on the bus has had a major impact on Robin’s life. Seven years ago when he was riding the bus home from his shift, he got to know one of the regular female passengers. After several conversations, she gave him her number and told him to call her. “I waited two days to phone her,” he confessed. “I really liked her but was afraid of coming across as desperate. Then when I finally called, she was mad at me for taking so long!”

Robin and his wife Stephanie have been happily married now for 5 years. “It actually took me a couple of years to finally propose. One day we just looked at each other, and I said maybe we should get married. She smiled and said she thought that sounded like a great idea. So we did. I’m a lucky man,” said Robin.

– Juno Kughler Carlson

Do you like this story and want to use it for your blog or newsletter? All our stories may be freely re-posted and shared with others!

Do you have a great Omnitrans story to share? Let us know!
Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org