The mission of the TMCC Veterans Resource Center (VRC) is to assist student veterans in their successful transition from military service to the academic environment.
We are here to help guide all veterans, eligible dependents and spouses, Nevada National Guard members, and active duty personnel in their educational goals. Entirely operated by veterans, the staff of the VRC is dedicated in using their own personal experiences to support other veterans and their families.
It was the early 1970s, and a stream of Vietnam veterans began pouring into the college. As one might expect, some of the veterans were coming in bitter and angry, seeking guidance or a new purpose, and really just trying to navigate the rigors of life back home. Many weren't feeling very good about the system or the Veterans Administration, and unfortunately there were difficulties dealing with the VA, as qualifying them for GI benefits was often a vigorous, demanding, and exhausting process.
The VA wanted the school checking attendance and progress. This created more unneeded tension, as the vets felt they were being spied on and we felt we were being overrun with bureaucracy. Between the North Campus in Reno and the South Campus in Carson there were over 1,400 veterans enrolled. The whole scene was unfortunately chaotic and unorganized, with staff trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.
One of the first new positions the school desperately needed was veteran's resource coordinator. As the story goes, Joe Ayarbe and Pat Miltenberger both had a conversation with "a nice guy on the phone": Veteran and former student Dave Wood. Before the conversation ended, Ayarbe looked at Miltenberger and said, "Let's hire this guy on the other side of the phone." And they did. The college had found the Veteran's Resource coordinator it so desperately needed.
Dave Wood offers a first hand account of campus life in the early 1970s:
In the fall of 1973 I was hired as the veterans counselor and based at the Stead campus. I had been a student in the Spring of 1973 and had most of my classes on the Stead campus. You could actually smoke in the classroom during lectures. Some of the instructors smoked like entertainers on stage have and still do today. My first introduction to the busy world of student services was registration for Fall 1973 at Reno High School for all the Reno community based classes including Stead. Reno HS provided a larger facility and was more centrally located compared with the Stead campus. And food was nearby. Stead had a dilapidated old prior military snack bar that someone had made a poor attempt at having a burger joint. One could also obtain bar fare at the Brave Bull bar (a converted military EM club)
I continued working as the veterans counselor at Stead but as a part of the federal outreach program that funded my salary I worked many other places serving veterans for the college. Among them were Elko, Fallon, Carson City, the Nevada State Prison, Hawthorne, Incline Village and Zephyr Cove. All were branches of WNCC except for Elko which was where Northern Nevada Community College was.
On one of my many visits to the Nevada State medium security Prison I became caught up in a prison riot. The ring leaders and their followers decided to take over the education building where I was visiting for the morning. Some of the prisoners had expressed a need to send a strong message to the prison administration that they were serious in their demands. Perhaps a civilian should be held hostage and made an example of. Among the ranks of inmates were also my veterans. Due to our close relationships the veterans protected me and escorted me to safety and I was able to escape the riot.