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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Greg Knight, Newly Elected Leader of the Vermont Guard, Vows Culture Change

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 2:48 PM

Col. Greg Knight speaks to retired colonel Rosanne Greco after  his election as the state's new adjutant general. - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Col. Greg Knight speaks to retired colonel Rosanne Greco after his election as the state's new adjutant general.

Legislators on Thursday tapped a new leader for the Vermont National Guard who vowed to meet individually with every woman in the organization as he seeks to reform a culture characterized by some as sexist.

Col. Greg Knight of Huntington smiled and hugged his wife and son after Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman announced the results of the election during a joint session of the Vermont House and Senate.

Knight was the only one of four candidates who is an active duty Guard member, currently serving as a human resources officer. All three of his opponents were retired members of the Guard.

On the first ballot, Knight received 95 of the 176 votes cast, enough to avoid a runoff.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Legislators Raise Awareness of Burn Pit Health Risks for Soldiers

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 4:37 PM

Sen. Jeanette White - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Sen. Jeanette White

Thousands of current and former members of the Vermont National
Guard may have been exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits during overseas deployments in the past 30 years, but only a small percentage appear to be aware of the health risks posed by such exposure.

Vermont legislators want to change that by increasing awareness
among service members and health care professionals about what Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) called a “ticking time bomb in public health.”

Of the estimated 10,000 Vermont guardsmen who have served in overseas theaters where burn pits were used by U.S. forces, just 366 have signed up for a registry aimed at sharing information with service members who may have been exposed.

That tells Ashe that “something hasn’t quite clicked yet in a pervasive way among returning service members” about the need to sign up for what is known as the federal Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

“A lot of people aren’t even aware of the registry and, certainly, I don’t think the general public is informed about this issue,” Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) said Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Adjutant General Candidates Pledge to Confront Sex Harassment in Vermont National Guard

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 10:34 PM

David Graham and Col. Greg Knight - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • David Graham and Col. Greg Knight

The four candidates seeking to be the next leader of the Vermont National Guard outlined Tuesday how they would combat sexual harassment and discrimination within the organization, create a culture of accountability and regain the public’s trust.

The hearing before a joint committee of the state general assembly was the first time each candidate had publicly explained why legislators should pick him or her to lead Vermont's 3,400-strong force of active duty and part-time soldiers.

David Baczewski, a retired Air Guard brigadier general and resident of Westford, was perhaps the most blunt in describing the Guard’s shortcomings around sexual assault and discrimination, the subject of intense media scrutiny of late. A series of stories published last November by VTDigger.org described instances of alleged alcohol abuse, cronyism, sexual harassment and retaliation against a whistleblower.

“We do not foster an inclusive work environment free from discrimination and harassment,” Baczewski said. “I think a lot of people are trying hard. We have good programs. But the answer is no. Discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, sex-based gender discriminations — including the LGBT community — exists. That’s a fact. It’s an unacceptable fact.”

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Monday, February 4, 2019

F-35 Critic Rosanne Greco Enters Race for Adjutant General

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 5:52 PM

Rosanne Greco has entered the race for adjutant general. - FILE: KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • File: Kevin J. Kelley
  • Rosanne Greco has entered the race for adjutant general.
A vocal critic of the decision to base F-35 fighter jets in Vermont announced Monday that she will seek the position of adjutant general.

Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force colonel and former chair of the South Burlington City Council, said she decided to seek the state’s top military post after several female legislators encouraged her to enter the previously male-dominated race.

Greco said her opposition to the F-35s, the first of which are expected to arrive this fall, would make her an excellent candidate because now is the time for the Vermont Air National Guard to be asking the question others might not.

“What could possibly go wrong? A whole lot could go wrong, and you want to know what those things are,” Greco said.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Legislators: National Guard Reports on Sexism, Assaults Are Lacking

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 9:01 PM

Maj. Gen. Steven Cray - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Maj. Gen. Steven Cray
Two reports meant to help legislators understand how women are faring in the Vermont National Guard appear to have missed their mark, according to some state lawmakers.

Guard leaders presented the reports Tuesday as evidence that the organization is doing everything in its power to understand and stamp out sexist attitudes and behavior. “Our service members don’t want to work in a sexist culture,” Maj. Gen. Steven Cray told a joint legislative committee.

Cray, adjutant general of the state’s 3,500-strong Air and Army National Guard units, presented the reports against a backdrop of intense media scrutiny. Recent stories by VTDigger.org have outlined alleged instances of alcohol abuse, cronyism, sexual harassment and retaliation against a whistleblower.
Cray said he was in “complete disagreement” with such characterizations as “the Guard is stuck in the 1950s” or “the leadership is in denial,” calling them hurtful.

“The men and women of the Vermont National Guard take exception to those accusations,” Cray said.

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Scott Defends Vermont National Guard, Says No Investigation Needed

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Maj. Gen. Steven Cray (background) looks on as Gov. Phil Scott addresses the media - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Maj. Gen. Steven Cray (background) looks on as Gov. Phil Scott addresses the media
Updated at 6:37 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott on Thursday brushed off allegations that the Vermont National Guard is plagued by a culture of sexual impropriety and alcohol abuse, referring to recently reported incidents as the actions of “an occasional bad apple.”

During a press conference at the Guard’s Colchester headquarters, Scott expressed full support for the organization and its leader, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray. Though the governor admitted that reporting by VTDigger.org had brought new allegations to light, he said he saw “no reason to go through an independent review.”

“I want to be very clear,” Scott said, as Cray stood behind him. “My faith and confidence in the women and men of the Vermont National Guard is unwavering.”

The two men, joined by dozens of Guard members, spent roughly 45 minutes addressing allegations raised in a seven-part series VTDigger published last week. The stories described a hard-partying, misogynistic organization that failed to address alleged sexual misconduct and retaliated against a whistleblower.

According to Cray, that portrait was flawed. “I vehemently disagree with and dispute the negative characterizations of our members and our culture in recent media coverage,” the adjutant general said.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Montpelier Widow Remembers USS Fitzgerald’s Namesake — Her Husband

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:18 AM

The damaged USS Fitzgerald - COURTESY: U.S. NAVY
  • Courtesy: U.S. Navy
  • The damaged USS Fitzgerald
From 6,500 miles away, Betty Ann Fitzgerald has closely watched the news out of Japan, where the USS Fitzgerald was involved in a fatal crash at sea.

The 74-year-old Montpelier woman is closely connected to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. She’s the ship’s “sponsor” — the person chosen by the secretary of the Navy to help christen and launch the vessel. And it bears the name of her late husband, Lt. William “Bill” Fitzgerald, who was killed on August 7, 1967, while defending his compound near Co Luy, Vietnam.

The military posthumously awarded the Vermont native the Navy Cross — the branch’s highest honor. He was 29.

The collision over the weekend, again a world away, “just brings it back to day one,” Betty Ann told Seven Days on Monday.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Vermont’s F-35 Opponents Get Their Day in Court

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 5:25 PM

An F-35 - FILE
  • File
  • An F-35
Opponents of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to base a squadron of next-generation F-35 fighter jets at Burlington International Airport finally got their day in federal court on Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford heard arguments in a lawsuit accusing the Air Force of failing to conduct a proper environmental review before deciding to assign 18 of the F-35s to the Vermont Air National Guard. The planes are scheduled to arrive in 2019.

Opponents of the F-35s, which are louder than the F-16s currently based at the airport, are trying to get that decision set aside and to have a new review, known as an environmental impact statement, conducted. Residents of South Burlington and Winooski, along with the Stop the F-35 Coalition and the city of Winooski, filed the suit.

James Dumont, the attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Air Force left several vital considerations out of its required environmental review. Dumont said the Air Force ignored South Burlington and Winooski land-use regulations, and failed to examine the risk of a serious accident. He said the Air Force didn’t examine either the idea of soundproofing homes in the areas that will be most affected by noise, or buying and demolishing them, which has previously been done in South Burlington.

“There was no informed public in this review,” Dumont said. “The [environmental impact statement] was a sham. It did not present the minimum information … that should be part of the evaluation.”

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Vermont Guard to Spend $25 Million on Taxiway Project

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 2:36 PM

Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace the Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s
The Vermont National Guard plans to spend more than $25 million to improve the taxiway that military jets use at Burlington International Airport. The project also will replace the apron where Vermont Air National Guard planes park and refuel.

The work is expected to begin this fall and continue through 2017 at the guard base, which is on land leased from Vermont's largest airport. The city of Burlington owns the airport, located in South Burlington.

The construction will not include the main runway, which military planes share with commercial carriers coming in and out of BTV, according to airport and guard officials.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

F-35 Opponents Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Posted By on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 at 9:15 AM

Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s.
  • Air Force F-35 fighter, scheduled to replace Vermont Air National Guard's F-16s.
Opponents of the U.S. Air Force's decision to base next-generation F-35 fighter planes at Burlington International Airport have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Activists have asked the high court to hear their appeal of a March Vermont Supreme Court ruling, which said the airport did not need to obtain state land use permits to base the new jets at the airport. 

The case is a long-shot to be argued in Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Supreme Court accepts about 1 percent of appeals annually.

But James Dumont, the Bristol attorney who represents the anti-F-35 activists, said the appeal was worth filing. "We respectfully disagree with the [Vermont] Supreme Court's opinion, and if possible, we'd like the nine justices of the Supreme Court to disagree." 

The appeal was drafted by D.C. attorney David Frederick, along with a professor and students at the University of Texas School of Law.

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