During the Iraq War, Peter Lloyd drove a heavy duty Humvee through the outskirts of Baghdad under the threat of improvised explosive devices.
It's safe to say, then, that he can handle New York streets as a taxi driver.
Lloyd, 29, who served two tours in Iraq while in the army from 2004 to 2009, is waiting to get behind the wheel of a yellow taxi now that he handed in an application compiled with the help of a new program called Vets Drive Yellow.
The traffic here, he said in his native Moscow accent, is "seen as extremely hectic, extremely irrational. I didn't find it that way."
After arriving in the United States at 10, Lloyd moved to New York in 2010 from Maryland looking for a fresh start in the big city. He lost interest in turning his military training in intelligence gathering into a security career, saying he was scammed at a certificate program. Now, living in East Elmhurst, he is a driver for a food delivery company and eager to start the hack life.
"It's a job where you do get to travel a lot and travel with a purpose," said Lloyd, who found an ad for the program on Craigslist. "It's interacting with people from every single culture, every single place."
Daniella Itin, a New Jerseyan who has been in the taxi industry for 13 years and is the daughter of a hack, launched Vets Drive Yellow early last month. The project has so far attracted 44 veterans looking for help streamlining the process of becoming a taxi driver. The Taxi and Limousine Commission is currently handling two applications submitted through the project, a spokesman said.
Lawrence Pross, the owner of a garage, Utica Taxi, who spoke with several veterans about becoming a hack, said the assistance and shortened application process makes taxi driving viable for them.
"You never could have too many drivers," Pross said.
There are no TLC stats on the number of vets driving a cab.
Itin wants to link garages in need of drivers with vets who want exciting work or are looking for a temporary job with decent wages. Her husband, Jonathan, was a U.S. Navy lieutenant who did two tours While in Kuwait during the Iraq War and in Afghanistan. Today, he is an NYPD officer.
Drivers are in demand now that there has been competition for hacks since the arrival of Uber, the app-based car service. That company, with about 400 vets driving for them in the city, is reaching out to the military community with targeted advertising of its vehicle-financing loan program and waiving startup fees and smartphone deposits in New York.
But Itin, who says participating garages cover advertising costs, fights to get those drivers inside a yellow taxi instead, spreading word of her program on the Facebook wall of Uber Drivers Network NYC to "Any Vets tired of Uber."
"The taxi industry is in need of drivers right now," Itin said. "We know a lot of people that come home and don't have jobs. And they don't really want to go 9 to 5, sit behind a desk."
Alexis Vasquez, 35, transported oil, driving down the middle of perilous roads hiding IEDs when he served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. "We had to pay attention to detail tremendously," he said.
He said he got a hack license where he lives in Englewood, New Jersey, but found driving there too slow. Now looking for a job to support his family -- a fiance and daughters ages 3 and 6 -- he wants to try a yellow cab in the city if it means something stable that will make him money.
"I'm just in a position where I need to find something as soon as possible," he said.
"I don't know too much about it or what the compensation is," he added.
Average pay for a yellow cabbie varies by time of day but can be as high as $30 an hour during peak times after expenses, according to TLC statistics. Itin, of Chelsea Taxi Brokers, which handles medallion sales, financing and insurance, reached out to the TLC on Jan. 14 about her Vets Drive Yellow program and the veterans it is helping with their paperwork.
Attaching discharge papers -- formally called DD214 -- gets a veteran's application to the top. Then, taxi school and medical and drug tests are scheduled. The vet can expect approval within about a month, instead of the normal two to three months.
Ralph Diaz, who runs Woodside Management, is helping Lloyd's application after hearing about the program from Itin. Diaz has family members who have enlisted and are in the NYPD.
"First of all, they could definitely be trusted to have somebody in one of our cabs," Diaz said of veterans.
But he said that the people who typically come into his garage are seasoned hacks who have connections in the industry and can hear about spots through word-of-mouth and family members.
The program is useful, he said, because it helps veterans without those connections.
Lloyd, the veteran doubted he would see the front seat of a taxi without the program's help.
“So far,” he said, “the process has been very smooth.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the story misattributed a quote. It has been fixed.