Guard legislation clears House committee

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(Host) Legislation that looks at how National Guard deployments have affected military families and their communities has cleared a key House committee.

The legislative action follows Town Meeting votes in March, when more than fifty towns passed resolutions that questioned the role of the Guard in the Iraq War.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The House General and Military Affairs Committee includes several military veterans. And at first, members were very skeptical of the National Guard resolution. Some lawmakers thought it focused too much on the Iraq War, and didn’t show enough support for the Guard.

Committee Chairman Francis Brooks, a Montpelier Democrat, wanted to get all committee members on board. And in the end, it was voted out unanimously.

(Brooks) “One of the objectives was to see if you could answer the questions that have been asked as it relates to the deployment, the effect on the state, the effect on the communities – that kind of thing.”

(Dillon) The resolution calls for a legislative study committee to hold public hearings this summer.

More than one-thousand Vermonters have been called into active duty for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vermont has seen highest per capita loss of all the states in the Iraq war. And it’s clear the war was the impetus behind the resolution.

Yet, Ben Scotch, who helped organize the Town Meeting votes and has worked on the issue in the legislature, says the focus of the study committee goes beyond the current conflict in the Middle East.

(Scotch) “It’s not about the war in Iraq. It’s about the process of deployment. It’s about something that’s really new in Vermont, or at least new in our time, of the deployment of a significant number of guard members. It will look at their readiness. It will look at recruitment. It will look basically at every aspect of what happens when a large number of guard members are deployed.”

(Dillon) Representative, Winston Dowland, is a Progressive legislator from Derby Line and a member of the General and Military Affairs Committee.

He’s a Vietnam veteran, and opposed to the Iraq war. But he hopes the study committee focuses on the impact of the deployments at home.

(Dowland) “My main concern was not about the war in Iraq. I wanted to know about all the National Guard that’s leaving the area, and coming back. How did it affect them? How did it affect the families? Did we take care of them? Did we provide them insurance? When they come back did they their job back? Did they get any advancements, any raise in pay? How did their company treat them? How did the community treat them? This is the things I thought were important”.

(Dillon) The study committee will include the adjutant general of the National Guard, two members of the House, two members of the Senate and appointments to be made by the governor.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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