Vermont National Guard leader looks back at 35-year career

Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 4:45 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

There's a changing of the guard Friday as the current Vermont adjutant general gets set to step down after a 35-year career.

"I will always have a special place in my heart for the Guard," said Adjutant General Steven Cray, who is set to resign this week as the newly elected leader of the Vermont National Guard, Adjutant General Colonel Greg Knight, is sworn in.

Colonel Knight takes over at a challenging time for the Guard, amid allegations of sexism and misconduct in the ranks. General Cray admits mistakes were made by a few, but says the Guard was mis-characterized by the alleged whistleblower.

Reporter Darren Perron: Is that part of the reason you're stepping down?

Adjutant General Steven Cray: Not part of the reason I am stepping down. And not only do I disagree with it, it's just not true. I've never said, nor have any of us said, we are a perfect organization. No organization is perfect. We have had some folks who did not live up to core values. And if someone does step out of line, it'll be taken care of and handled properly.

Colonel Knight also takes over as 60 Vermonters remain deployed to the Middle East and Southwest Asia, providing air ambulance service and evacuations on the battle field. WCAX has learned that deployment will end in May or June and Cray says everyone is ok.

But Cray admits more needs to be done to help returning vets, like the 1,500 who deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. Some 185 were wounded in the war zone and more than 450 suffered PTSD. He says the Guard continues to struggle with stigma surrounding PTSD, but it's working to get more troops into treatment. "The care is there. The VA has stepped up its efforts in providing that kind of care. We're making progress," he said.

And he also worries about burn pits used in war zones. He recently lost his Assistant Adjutant General, Michael Heston, to cancer. Heston, and other Vermont veterans blame their illnesses on the pits. Cray says now it could be the new agent orange. "It's getting to the point where so many people could be affected by this, we've got to do something," he said. Cray has instructed our deployed military members to move if they're near burn pits.

Cray admits there have been ups and downs during his time as Adjutant General, but says he's proud of the job he's done and the people he's led. "I hold my head up high, I really do. And I'll look back at a 35-year career with just great memories," he said.

General Cray will return to his civilian job as a pilot for American Airlines.

To hear more of his exit interview, watch Channel 3's You Can Quote Me, Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m.