VNG at Airport, 5-28-2020

Members of the Vermont National Guard distribute Farmers to Families-supplied food boxes at an emergency meals site in Highgate. According to the Food Security Coalition, more than 1.6 million pounds of food had been distributed through Farmers to Families food boxes in Vermont.

MONTPELIER — Members of the Vermont legislature have formed a Vermont National Guard Legislative Caucus in advance of an anticipated large-scale deployment of the Vermont Army National Guard in 2021, with the intent of improving communication with the guard.

The purpose of the caucus to provide "a venue for legislators and the VTNG to review policies, learn more about VTNG operations and actions, discuss issues specific to the organization and provide for additional transparency," according to a statement provided by Rep. Laura Siblia, I-Dover, one of the caucus's three co-chairs.

The guard is scheduled for a large-scale deployment abroad in 2021, with some members of the Air National Guard set to deploy later this year. 

"Legislators will have many constituents in their communities impacted by these deployments," Siblia wrote. "The group expects to provide a forum for discussion around the missions and policies of the Vermont National Guard and will be a resource for the public, the General Assembly, and affiliated policy organizations."

The non-partisan caucus has 20 members. Rep. Lisa Hango, R-Berkshire, is one of the three co-chairs, along with Democrat Matt Birong of Vergennes. Both serve on the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee.

The caucus intends to meet monthly with liaisons from the Scott administration, Legislative Counsel, and guard leadership, according to Siblia.

“The formation of this caucus will be a great resource for engagement between the guard, the legislature and the public. These dialogues will be a welcome conduit of information as our committee does its work,” said Birong.

As with any National Guard state, the governor is the Commander in Chief. However, Vermont is the only state in which the legislature names the Adjutant General.

“Vermont Legislators have a unique and consequential responsibility to ensure enlisted and officers within the Vermont National Guard have high quality and highly qualified leadership,” said Sibilia, a military mom who hopes the caucus can help new legislators understand that role.

“This caucus has already received enthusiastic support from National Guard leaders, constituents, and leaders in the Vermont House as our guard prepares for its overseas missions and continues to serve us here in the State with its response to the pandemic," said Hango. "Many constituents in Franklin County played an important role in the 2010 deployments, and I see this caucus as a way of giving back to those who serve by supporting members, their families, and our communities."

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