Nitka’s Notes from the Statehouse, Feb. 14, 2020

Dear Editor,

Have you ever thought of joining the Vermont National Guard, Army, or Air services? The Guard, in a presentation to the Senate Appropriations Committee, reported that they would like to recruit 200 new members for the Army and 300 for the Air. They are recruiting men and women and offer a scholarship program for educational tuition as an incentive to join. The tuition benefit is a relatively new program and was started in order to increase enrollment.

Other states were offering it while Vermont was not, thus Vermonters were joining Guard Units in other states in order to take advantage of the scholarships. Now in Vermont, 60% of new enlistees to the Army Guard and 30% of those to the Air Guard report they enlisted due to the scholarships. It involves $475,000 of General Fund money distributed through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. Public service announcements, social media, and presence at forums and events are also being used to recruit. I believe the only two high schools with military programs in the state are Spaulding in Barre and North Country Union High School in Newport.

With the downsizing and changing needs of the Military, there are fewer active armories and many are now owned and in active use by local communities. Others have not fared as well and their fate is unknown. There are 22 armories and more than 11,000 acres throughout the state to be maintained. There is federal and state money involved except for the two federal armories that are fully federally funded. The Guard employs 933 people full-time and 2,365 part-time. Their federal payroll is $130 million. The Guard brought over $204 million into the state of Vermont in fiscal year 2019.

The Air Guard reports a very busy year with the departure of the F-16 planes after 33 years of service. The F-35 aircrafts arrived and presently all pilots of the F-35s are in Florida training. They mentioned that they do have one female candidate for the F-35 school. It was also reported that they have flown over 100 flights to date with zero afterburner takeoffs. The Air Guard Fire Department has also been busy responding to 254 mutual aid incidents, eight in-flight emergencies, and six hazardous materials incidents. The mutual aid emergency responses were in 17 cities in Chittenden County.

The Office of Veterans’ Affairs, which has all the records of Vermont veterans, provides outreach to the 42,000 veterans living in Vermont. They do invaluable work helping veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled. They helped veterans recover $6.1 million in benefits in 2019. There are ongoing efforts to increase participation in the Burn Pit Registry that the Legislature established last year. The Guard has developed a mobile computer kiosk that will be at major events where Armed Forces members and veterans are in attendance. Subject matter experts will be with the kiosk to assist with enrollment.

Feel free to contact me at the Statehouse at 1-800-322-5616, on weekends at 802-228-8432, or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. Letters can be sent to P.O. Box 136, Ludlow, VT 05149-0136.

Sincerely,

Sen. Alice Nitka

Windsor County

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