In wake of negative press and what he calls his toughest week as a service member, Vermont’s Adjutant General is pushing back.
At a press conference Thursday at Camp Johnson, Maj. General Steven Cray said he “vehemently” disagrees with the account of Guard culture depicted in ‘The Flying Fraternity,’ a seven-part series by VTDigger.
The news outlet alleges Guard personnel engaged in excessive drinking at a so-called ‘afterburner club’ on-base.
Cray acknowledged that there was was alcohol after duty hours “on a case-by-case basis.” But, he said, “I dispute the negative characterization of our members and our culture.”
He also disputed charges that the Guard had inadequate sexual assault policies, saying cases “were handled correctly, professionally and appropriate action was taken.”
VTDigger also alleged that the unit exaggerated troop numbers and delayed discharges to maintain a higher level of staffing. Cray said the Guard discovered “insufficiencies in the process” and made changes.
Cray also took issue with the number of sexual assaults reported since 2013. He says 33 reports were received, 14 of which were identified to have involved a guard member as the offender. The other nineteen cases came before 2013.
“It suggests that members now have greater confidence in the system to come forward,” he said.
Gov. Phil Scott learned of these allegations along with the public. While disappointed, he says there will be no investigation launched by his office.
“I’ve spoken to General Cray, I take him at his word that they are doing everything they can and I’m convinced all the procedures and protocols were adhered to,” said Scott.
Cray admits there is room for improvement and has formed a two-point action plan to include better transparency and prevention efforts.
“There is an opportunity in all of this to improve and make challenges to policy and that is something that we should look at a national level, not just here in Vermont,” he said.
Cray says the National Guard Bureau which administers the country’s guard units is aware of the articles and allegations but he doesn’t know if any action will be taken.
The Major General has since also announced his plans to retire at the end of his current term next year. He says it’s been in the works for quite some time.
Vermont is the only state where the Adjutant General is selected by the state legislature, a process the governor is not fond of.
“It’s demeaning I believe for those going through the process and I’m not sure we get all the information we should… I would go to or advocate for a judicial nomination approach,” said Scott.
Cray was first elected to the post of adjutant general in 2013 but has been a member of the guard in some capacity for 34 years.