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This Warner Robins school now has a dorm, and veterans get the benefit

Soldiers, Marines and airmen are living together in a dormitory at Robins Air Force Base as they prepare for a big mission.

The next task of their lives is to leave military service and become civilians again. The eight active-duty troops are students at the Veterans Education Career Resource Transition Center (VECTR) where military members and those who have already left the service can get training for careers in the civilian world.

Although VECTR is off base in Warner Robins, rooms in the dorm have been set aside for active-duty troops undergoing training at the center. This is the first semester that students have lived there. The center serves troops and veterans statewide, including those whose permanent residence is in another state but are currently stationed in Georgia.

Military regulations allow active-duty troops leaving the service to spend their final six months being trained for the transition if there is no cost to the military member. Previously VECTR had not met that requirement because of the lack of housing, so the dorm has opened the training to a whole new influx of students.

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Wogerman, an artilleryman who has served in Afghanistan, is from Ohio and is stationed at Fort Stewart in Hinesville. He is taking welding at VECTR and will finish the program in the fall.

Without the dorm, he would have had to drive more than two hours each way every day, or get a hotel room at a cost of $800 a month. His military housing allowance would have paid that, but he would have had to give up his apartment in Hinesville.

When he first walked into the dorm he was surprised to see that towels, toiletries and everything else he needed was there ready for him.

“It was just like coming into a hotel room and that was a sense of relief,” he said.

Patricia Ross, executive director of VECTR and a retired Air Force colonel, said so far the living arrangements are working out well. She is expecting more students to use the dorm during the fall quarter.

“These students are doing phenomenally well,” she said. “They’ve enjoyed being at the base. It’s been a great model.”

Marine Sgt. Montavious Taylor, currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, is a student at VECTR. He is from Albany, where his wife and child live. He is staying the dorm while he gets training in VECTR’s heating and air conditioning program.

“It’s definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “I would have had to drive back and forth from Albany to here to get to class. It makes life so much easier and simpler for me.”

For legal reasons only active duty military members, not those who have already left the service, can stay in the dorm. But additional VECTR housing is on the way that will be open to all of the students. A 90-unit apartment complex is under construction across the street from VECTR and the developer has promised five apartments for free to VECTR students.

VECTR, which opened in 2016, currently has 48 students, which is close to the maximum for the classes being held, Ross said. It serves thousands more veterans in other ways, including helping them get benefits and find resources to help them.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.