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Tim Rogers’s advice: “Get in where you fit in.”

Tim Rogers still remembers when his Army drill sergeant handed him orders to his first duty station: Alaska.

“I just sat on the sidewalk and hung my head. Alaska? Are you serious?” he laughed. “You’re going to tell a young man who grew up in the Deep South where it never gets cold that he’s going to Alaska?”

A long-time driver for Carlile Transportation, Rogers recently celebrated 20 years with the company. He said he now looks at those orders as a blessing in disguise.

“Alaska has always been good to me. There’s always a lot of work up here if you know how to work hard.”

Alabama to eighty-below

Rogers was born in Enterprise, Alabama. His father, a Vietnam veteran, worked on Sikorsky helicopters, maintaining electrical systems. His mother was a seamstress and mother of four boys.

“I had two older brothers and one younger,” Rogers said. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure at the time what I wanted to do when I got out of school. My eldest brother was getting ready to join the military, and he was like, ‘Hey, Tim, come into the military, we can go together.’ I didn’t have a plan at the time, so I decided to go in with him.”

Rogers left for the U.S. Army in 1988, a month before his brother. He attended basic training at Fort Jackson outside of Columbia, South Carolina, and then moved to Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia – both relatively close to home.

“I was only there (at Fort Gordon) for a few months. That’s where the training took place. I went in to be a Wire System Operator. Communications.”

Rogers’s job was to set up telephone systems in the field and act as an operator so that teams were always in contact with the base. “Keeping comms up in the field” is a skill he excelled at, eventually earning awards. Perhaps, he said, that’s why he was sent to Alaska, where outdoor conditions made communications even more difficult – but critical to survival.

“The first winter was the worst. It was January of 1989. When I got off the airplane, it was 50 below zero. Same week, it dropped to 80 below. They dropped me off with my unit already in the field. All the equipment kept failing due to the cold.”

Back to Alaska

Rogers stayed in Alaska for most of his five-year stint in the military, but he spent his final year at Fort Ritchie in Maryland and then working at Raven Rock, sometimes referred to as the “underground Pentagon.”

“When my time was up, I had other things I wanted to do,” he said. “I never thought I’d be in the military forever. I used it as a stepping stone to straighten me out, to instill discipline.”

Rogers didn’t want to stay in Maryland – “too much of a rat race.” He decided instead to return to Alaska.

“I came back in 1993 and took a month off,” he said. “Then I worked at a retail store for a bit. Then I worked for a delivery service, and that’s where I started getting into the whole ‘freight and delivery’ stuff. I did that for a year.”

Rogers met his wife at the retail store in 1995. The couple was married a year later. Her friend’s dad owned a transmission shop, and Rogers decided to try his hand at mechanics.

“I did that so I could learn about cars and stuff. It’s like everything I’ve done in my life prepared me for the next step. It’s funny how that works out.”

Rogers’s ‘next step’ was working as a full-time private mechanic.

“One of the ladies in the church I attended needed a mechanic to do light maintenance on the fleet of vehicles she used for her business. The first year I was there, the guy driving the truck injured his knee, and she asked me to jump in the front until she could hire another guy. I never got out of the truck. I did such a good job, she said, ‘Why don’t you just stay and I’ll pay you more?’”

Rogers studied for his Commercial Driver’s License and drove the truck for two more years until his father-in-law invited him to apply to work with him at Carlile as an Alaska truck driver. He was hired in 2001.

“I worked 13-, 14-hour days locally those first few years. I made sure I was always available. When you’re always available, you move up faster.”

Rogers shakes hands in front of his new truck.
Tim Rogers, left, was presented a new truck in August to commemorate his 20 years at Carlile.

Stress test

Rogers spent his first six years at Alaska shipping company Carlile delivering packages and other small freight in and around Anchorage and another three doing flatbed work. In 2010, the Home Depot account came open.

“I immediately was like, ‘Hey, I’ll do the Home Depot account!’ I jumped in. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very consistent. The hours don’t change in the winter. I had two boys and a wife to take care of, and I wasn’t trying to see my hours go down in the wintertime. That’s where I’ve been ever since.”

In August, Carlile celebrated Rogers’s 20-year tenure with the company by presenting him with a brand new truck.

“I remember thinking at 15 years, ‘I’ve been here 15 years’ – when you get to 15 years, it’s not like you want to start over – ‘I’m going to get to 20. If I get to 20, I’ll see how I’m feeling, and if I’m feeling good, 25.’”

At 51 years old, driving in a mental game, Rogers said.

“Whatever you can do to alleviate…get rid of the stress, it helps. It really helps. When you get older, your patience for stupid stuff is low. If you can minimize that, you can take your career as far as you would like to.”

Rogers credits his strong work ethic for his professional success. His advice for the young guys following in his footsteps is to “get in where you fit in.”

“That is to say, find what you want to do here, and whatever department you choose to get in, be the best at it. Drive the bar up, and you’ll see that people will notice that and work with you to help you achieve your goals. I see a lot of guys come in, and they want everything that you have, but they haven’t put the work in to get there. But Carlile – Alaska, really – has been very good to me. I was able to take care of my family, raise my kids. I’ve always had the opportunity to do what I wanted to do.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.