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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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Monday, September 28, 2015

Burlington Police Opt Out of a Military Equipment Program

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 3:59 PM

ILLUSTRATION: MATT MORRIS
  • Illustration: Matt Morris
Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo on Monday announced the department will no longer accept military gear from the controversial U.S. Department of Defense surplus equipment program.

The department returned two pairs of night-vision goggles — its last remaining equipment from what is known as the Pentagon's 1033 program — and will not accept any gear in the future, del Pozo said.

The chief cited national concerns about the program, which transfers the Pentagon's excess assault rifles, armored vehicles and cars, and other tactical gear to local cops.

Opponents say the program exacerbates a trend toward the militarization of local police agencies.

“The militarization of local police departments is a genuine concern in our nation,” said del Pozo, who started work earlier this month after leaving the New York City Police Department, in a prepared statement. “There are times when military style equipment is essential for public safety, but they are very rare. Amassing a worst-case scenario arsenal of military equipment results in officers seeing everyday police work through a military lens. When I realized what a small role the military played in equipping our police, I concluded it was better to return the items and let our 1033 program memorandum of understanding expire.” 

A Seven Days report in November found that in recent years, Vermont police agencies acquired 158 assault rifles, 14 military Humvees, and scores of scopes, sights and other equipment from the program, often with little public scrutiny. Agencies had requested more than twice as much military equipment than they got.  

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Obama Appoints Saint Michael's Grad to Lead Joint Chiefs of Staff

Posted By on Tue, May 5, 2015 at 1:19 PM

General Joseph Dunford Jr. meets with Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in Afghanistan in 2013.
  • General Joseph Dunford Jr. meets with Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in Afghanistan in 2013.
President Barack Obama today named General Joseph Dunford Jr., a 1977 graduate of Saint Michael's College, to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dunford, who currently serves as commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, will have to be confirmed by the Senate before taking the post as the nation's highest ranking military officer and principal advisor to the president and secretary of defense.

Saint Michael's College president Jack Neuhauser said that Dunford has kept close ties to the college since embarking on his military career.

“General Dunford has graciously returned to campus for alumni events and participated in programs on world issues over the years, and recently welcomed Saint Michael’s delegations to his office in the Pentagon as Marine commandant,” Neuhauser said in a statement. In a recent interview with the college’s alumni magazine, Dunford spoke about how his Catholic liberal arts education was ideal preparation for success in a challenging military career, Neuhauser noted.

Fellow St. Michael's alum Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) cheered Obama's decision.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Mississippi Hanging Case Has Vermont Connection

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 6:04 AM

Martha Rainville - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Martha Rainville
The story of a Mississippi man found hanging from a tree last week is making national news as authorities try to determine whether 54-year-old Otis Byrd, who was black, committed suicide or was lynched. 

In 1980, Byrd was convicted of robbing and murdering Lucille Trim, a 55-year-old, white convenience store clerk. Trim's daughter, Martha Rainville, went on to serve as adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard and ran unsuccessfully for Vermont's lone seat in the U.S. House in 2006.

Rainville was a 21-year-old Air Force trainee when Byrd shot her mother while robbing the small, Port Gibson, Miss., grocery store her family owned. Byrd was paroled just before the 2006 election in which Rainville, a Republican, waged a hard-fought race against Democrat Peter Welch for the open seat.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Winooski Voters Approve Joining Suit to Oppose F-35

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 7:29 PM

f-35-image.jpg
Winooski voters today approved a referendum article opposing the Pentagon's decision to base F-35 fighter jets at nearby Burlington International Airport in 2020.

By a 572-475 vote, residents backed the non-binding referendum, which asked whether the city should join a lawsuit in which anti-F-35 activists are seeking to prevent the planes from coming to Vermont.

The plaintiffs, who include four Winooski residents, claim the military failed to perform required environmental reviews before deciding to place the jets in Burlington. Activists had fought for years to block the planes, citing the noise levels caused by their takeoffs and landings. The F-35 noise zone will affect 6,600 local residents, including many in the Onion City.

The article was strictly advisory. The city council has the authority to compel the city to join the ongoing litigation, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Burlington.

No other communities are parties in the lawsuit, which is still in its early stages and could take years to resolve. James Dumont, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told Seven Days last month that he hoped Winooski would sign up. Dumont said he would not necessarily seek to have the city make a financial contribution to the case.

Seth Leonard, who won the mayor's race, said of the referendum, "Now, we go back and do our legal homework."



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