The flying fraternity: A ‘Top Gun’ culture pervades the Vermont National Guard
Nov. 25, 2018
The storied history of the Vermont National Guard reaches back almost 250 years to the days of the Revolutionary War.
Back then, the militia was known as the Green Mountain Boys. Today, the members of the Vermont National Guard still proudly call themselves by that same name.
Their first leader was Ethan Allen, who spearheaded the successful 1775 campaign to capture Fort Ticonderoga. Today, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray leads the approximately 2,500 men and women in the Vermont Army National Guard and the 1,000 in the Vermont Air National Guard that comprise the Vermont National Guard.
Vermont Guard troops have played a key role abroad and at home. Its members have been deployed to the Middle East and Southeast Asia as part of the war on terror. In 2001, Vermont pilots secured the skies in New York City soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A decade later, Vermont soldiers helped reconstruct roads after the devastating floods of Tropical Storm Irene.
The Vermont National Guard has long commanded respect because of the sacrifices of its members. Even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an outspoken critic of military spending, steadfastly supports the Guard’s mission. Sanders, and Vermont’s leading politicians, have backed plans for Vermont to become the first Air Guard unit to base the next-generation F-35 fighter jet in 2019.
Earlier this year, VTDigger reported on allegations that Guard leaders, including Maj. Gen. Cray, had violated military ethics and regulations in the basing of the next-generation fighter jets. This followed a five-part VTDigger series on the impending basing of the jets. While the Air Force inspector general opened an investigation into Vermont Guard leaders, investigators did not interview key officials, and declined to bring charges.
A new six-month investigation by VTDigger has uncovered a “good ol’ boys club” at the Guard in which male officials receive preferential treatment, break rules, and abuse alcohol. Our reporting uncovered numerous allegations that the Guard has created a toxic environment for women who say they have been mistreated and passed up for promotions. We also spoke with a whistleblower who found the tables turned on him after investigating allegations of misconduct against a top leader in the organization.