(Host) The Douglas Administration does not support a legislative study of the Vermont National Guard and its deployment in Iraq. More than fifty towns on Town Meeting Day passed resolutions that questioned the role of the Guard in the Iraq war. But administration and National Guard officials say the study isn’t needed.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) The Town Meeting Day vote was seen as a referendum on the war, and the use of Vermont’s citizen soldiers in the conflict.
Backers of the resolution hoped the town meeting vote would lead to a legislative discussion about whether the troop deployments have left the Guard stretched too thin to handle emergencies at home.
But Administration Secretary Charles Smith says that’s not the case.
(Smith) “I believe that we still have about sixty percent of the Guard who are – who remain in Vermont. And it’s the position, as I understand it of the Guard and it’s the governor’s position accordingly that we actually have ample manpower for whatever emergency needs that might arise during the course of the deployment.”
(Dillon) Brigadier General William Noyes, the assistant adjutant general of the Guard, told lawmakers that the guard’s first job is to serve as a combat force. Its secondary role, he says, is to help with emergencies at home.
According to Noyes, about 700 soldiers were called up in 1998 to help with a massive ice storm in Vermont. He says that even with twelve-hundred soldiers serving overseas, the Guard has about twenty-five hundred soldiers at home to handle emergencies.
And even though the Guard is considered a state military force, Noyes says the governor cannot block its deployment when it’s activated by the Pentagon.
(Noyes)” The governor does not have the authority to withhold consent to mobilize for contingency operations such as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ or ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ because no gubernatorial consent is required for such mobilizations.”
(Dillon) Backers of the resolution say the study is needed to look at a wide range of impacts on the Guard, Guard families and their communities in Vermont.
Nancy Brown is from Rochester. Her son returned from Iraq last month, and she’s worried he could be called back.
(Brown) “I’m concerned about readiness in the future. There’s shortage of recruitment. There’s going to be a shortage of troops in 2006. Families are very concerned our soldiers are going to be re-deployed to Iraq. There’s no timetable in Iraq now, although they’re starting to talk about a timetable for withdrawal. I don’t think this is a moot point at all. And none of the Guard families think it’s moot to start talking about what’s going to happen now and in the future.”
(Dillon) The families of the Guard soldiers will get a chance to testify next week when the House Committee on General and Military Affairs takes up the resolution.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.