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Former National Guard Member: To End Sexual Misconduct, Culture Must Change

National Guard Truck with pallets
Abagael Giles
/
VPR file
The Vermont National Guard is undergoing an audit to find areas of improvement in its sexual assault and harassment prevention.

The Vermont National Guard's former equal employment and diversity manager says the guard has a hypermasculine culture that leads to pervasive sexual harassment and assault. We'll speak with Doris Sumner about what she thinks the Guard needs to do better. And we'll get a statement from Adj. Gen. Greg Knight about how he plans to use an audit to address these issues.  

Our guest is: 

You can read more reporting about sexual misconduct in the Vermont National Guard in Seven Days and VTDigger

Vermont Edition invited Adj. Gen. Greg Knight to appear as part of this program. He was unable to participate, but sent along this statement:

Thanks for the opportunity to address sexual harassment, sexual assault and our policies in the Vermont National Guard. I take this very seriously. We're going to continue working on our efforts towards prevention, in addition to our efforts on response. There's been more change in the National Guard in my term than I can easily give you in a brief statement. But I do look forward to speaking with you in greater detail in the next couple of weeks. In an earlier question, you referred to an audit. We term that as an organizational assessment, and that's conducted by the National Guard Bureau. So I looked at it and I've often volunteered and decided to invite National Guard Bureau out to conduct the assessment. For me, it's an ideal approach that gets us an unbiased, objective and in-depth review of our climate and our culture as an organization. What's important for me is the assessment produces findings and recommendations, and that guides us on the best courses of action to make organizational improvements. It's kind of our handrail to becoming better. And part of this is understanding we need to acknowledge whatever challenges or shortcomings come out in this assessment. And we're going to address them as swiftly as possible. And we're going to make our guard the best and most living, inclusive environment that it can be. Even before I got this job, and I certainly believe it now, soldiers and airmen are our center of gravity. I truly believe that. We can't do anything without them. And their service, for me, that makes them different. And now, in order for my vision to become a reality, we have to continuously work on promoting and emphasizing an inclusive environment. And part of that, as I mentioned upfront, is focusing on the prevention of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Now, another thing that's important is exemplifying that message throughout the guard and doing that in a collaborative, cooperative and positive manner. And I'm doing that. I'm excited to see an increase in women representation among both senior leaders and in the junior ranks and the impact that it's having. And probably more important is the impact it's going to have in building opportunity for the future. And COVID, as hard as it is, on everybody's actually had some benefits for me because I'm not traveling as much as this job would dictate. And that gives me an opportunity to spend time with soldiers and airmen at every level. And I've been actively listening to their concerns and their ideas. For me, good ideas don't have a rank and it's important to hear from our members. We're going to take these ideas and we're gonna build on them, as well as the recommendations that we got from our women's workshop last year. In addition to what we get with the organizational assessment. So we're going to continue putting all that together. I'm going to continue meeting with our Guard members and working to foster a command climate that's safe and inclusive for everyone. It's pretty straightforward. I'm well aware of my responsibilities and all the challenges that remain. But I'm honored to have the opportunity to serve this outstanding organization. And I certainly appreciate the opportunity to at least provide you a statement today. And we'll talk again in the future. All the best.

Broadcast live on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020 at noon. Rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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