The Vermont National Guard’s adjutant general and a terminated longtime former Guard member agree that the overwhelming majority of people in the Guard are dedicated and conscientious. However, the two men have differing views of how valuable the operational assessment of the Guard, released over the weekend, will be in addressing the issues that are highlighted in it.
Under U.S. Army regulations, any officer assuming a new command is required to conduct a climate survey of the unit within six months. That includes the Vermont National Guard, which Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight has led as adjutant general since March 2019.
“I could have done that, but I wanted to probably take a different perspective,” Maj. Gen. Knight said in a phone interview. “I think, organizationally sometimes, you can be a little myopic, a little too close to problems, and you may not see them.”
Five years ago, the Guard terminated longtime former member Jeff Rector of Jericho on charges of alleged misconduct. He claims he was let go for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing within the guard.
Rector agrees that having an outside perspective on problematic situations is helpful. However, he believes the operational assessment told the Guard nothing that it didn’t already know.
“It highlighted all the things I brought forward,” Rector said. “As they said in the report, these things stem from back in 2017 until now, so I believe the leadership in the Vermont National Guard has known about these.”
Rector was one of the current and former Guard members who spoke with VTDigger in 2018 about discipline, favoritism and how reports of sexual misconduct are handled, among other things.
While he was forced out, he says he’s concerned about potential victims still with the Guard
who might remain silent out of fear of losing their careers.
“When you see the light at the end, 20 years being a retirement window, and these folks may have 16, 17 years in and they see that 20-year mark and they want to make it there — they’re not going to say anything,” Rector said.
After Knight spoke about myopia, we asked him if he was too close to the problems documented in the report to see them. He said that the organization will learn from the past.
“We’re getting out from under the shadow of the past,” Knight said. “We’re going in a different direction. I can’t really speak to, organizationally, what we did or didn’t see then.”
Rector said that the Green Mountain State’s highest elected official should step in.
“Governor Scott needs to take a hard look at the leadership and make changes,” he said.
Knight added that COVID-19 was just one of the factors behind the findings not coming out until this past Sunday. The Vermont Guard’s response to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was another, as was turnover in top leadership at the National Guard Bureau, which assembled the report.