COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) The Vermont National Guard is pushing back after recent news reports raised questions about its culture.
The guard's commander, Adjutant Gen. Steven Cray, and Gov. Phil Scott defended the unit Thursday, saying policies and procedures have been followed when members violate policies.
Adjutant Gen. Cray says there is room for improvement at the guard, but was somewhat defiant also, saying he disagrees with the tone of several articles by Vermont Digger and how they portrayed his unit.
"Last week was arguably one of the toughest weeks I've experienced as a service member. And to be clear -- I vehemently disagree with and dispute the negative characterization of our members and our culture in recent media coverage," said Adjutant Gen. Cray.
The series of articles by Vermont Digger last week highlighted misdeeds by some members and included allegations of excessive drinking, sexual harassment and misconduct and a fraternity-style culture within the Vermont National Guard.
At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott said recent reports don't represent the entire National Guard.
"In many areas and in many organizations, there will be instances of poor judgement. mistakes made, and occasionally a bad apple, but individual situations like these are the exception, not the rule,"Gov. Scott said.
Adjutant Gen. Cray insists that the National Guard followed all of its policies. "In the end, the cases were handled correctly, professionally and appropriate action was taken," he said.
Scott acknowledged that at least some allegations of sexual harassment were reported to his office shortly after he was sworn in in 2016, but he says it was reviewed and found to be handled appropriately. He says no further review of the Guard is needed. "We are not at this point in time advocating for any independent review. I've spoken to Gen. Cray. I take him at his word that they're doing everything they can and I'm convinced that all the procedures and protocols were adhered to," he said. "I want to be very clear. My faith and confidence in the men and women of the Vermont National Guard is unwavering and I believe they have followed their systems."
Vermont Digger also reported the Vermont National Guard delayed discharges for members. Cray faulted procedures and says no one in leadership delayed any discharge to pad the guard's membership numbers.