(WACO, Texas) – Edgar Marvin Dearbonne Jr., of Paige, Texas, served for four years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman and later had a career of more than 30 years as a registered land surveyor. But he also grew up working with his father on heavy equipment and even owned heavy-duty trucks as an adult.
Dearbonne decided to leave his stressful work behind and pursue associate degrees in the Diesel Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College. He is scheduled to graduate in May.
“The most fun I had was in the engine classes,” he said. “I like tearing into the engines and overhauling. All of it has been eye-opening. Every class has its benefits as far as certain things you will catch onto and enjoy.”
Dearbonne is using Hazlewood Act money for his tuition at TSTC, but he pays for his own books and supplies.
“When I left the Army, it was more or less ‘Here is your pay, here is your information, here is your plane ticket,’” he said. “I know more these days; they (the Army) do more with transition.”
TSTC’s Veteran Recruitment department has grown in recent years, along with the face-to-face connections that staff members make with potential students. The department’s goal is to help service members and their dependents identify what skills they already have that are transferable to a technical career.
“When you think about military servicemen and servicewomen, and the skills they have and the mindsets they have, they are trained to perform specific technical functions during their military service,” said Kenneth Buford, TSTC’s statewide Veteran Recruitment director. “When they transition to civilian life, they bring skills and are already trained in such a manner that they are subject matter experts in their fields while in the service. When they go into civilian life, they carry that aptitude and experience with them.”
Buford said the department has a marketing agreement with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene in which rotating TSTC advertising materials are shown on more than 240 digital screens in the base’s buildings. He estimated that more than 25,000 people see TSTC’s messaging per month.
Military veterans and their dependents can start at any level at TSTC to earn an occupational skills achievement award, a certificate of completion or an associate degree as long as any prerequisites are met. Buford said the top five technical programs at TSTC that veterans and their dependents pursue are Automotive Technology, Cybersecurity, Electrical Lineworker Technology, HVAC Technology and Welding Technology.
Buford hopes that military personnel will have pride for Abilene and stay when they leave the Air Force. He said they can be a great source to fill the area’s manufacturing demands. West Texas military personnel and their dependents can also join TSTC’s FAST Trac Airframe and Powerplant training program or Commercial Driver’s License program, both offered by TSTC’s Workforce Training and Continuing Education department.
Once students apply to TSTC, they can work with the college’s Veteran Services staff to make sure that their time at TSTC is successful.
“Our office staff serves as advocates for students,” said Steve Guevara, TSTC’s director of Veteran Services. “We act as a liaison for the college offices and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Guevara said his staff can work with TSTC’s Access and Learning Accommodations department if students need extra assistance with their studies.
Some of the common questions that students have focus on veterans benefits and verifying attendance to maintain them. Guevara said veteran-students need to notify Veteran Services staff when they change technical programs or add or drop classes because it could impact their military benefits.
TSTC’s Veteran Recruitment staff members plan to attend an open house at the Waco campus on March 31. The department will also have a presence at Dyess Air Force Base’s Month of the Military Child block party on March 31 and the Women Airforce Service Pilots Homecoming and Fly-In on April 28-29 in Sweetwater. Department staff members also plan to visit Joint Base San Antonio’s military installations in June.
For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.