The Vermont National Guard Family: Bittersweet Hello's & Goodbye's

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By Tech. Sgt. Garth Dunkel

U. S. Army Col. Gregory Knight, a Huntington, Vermont native assumed the command as Adjutant General, the commanding officer of the Vermont National Guard, during the second week of March. Knight’s tenure of military service began 35-years ago as an enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard, then the Vermont Air National Guard, before he transitioned to the Vermont Army National Guard where his career flourished as a commissioned officer. The official ceremony is the culmination of Knight’s successful candidacy in Montpelier, where members of the state legislature vote, and subsequently appoint each Adjutant General of Vermont.

During the cold and sunny Friday afternoon of March 8, at Vermont National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Colchester, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Cray concluded six steadfast years as Adjutant General as he relinquished command authorities to Knight.

Cray began his military career in 1984 upon his enlistment into the Vermont Air National Guard as a University of Vermont underclassman. His dream to earn the “F-16 Fighter Pilot” title became reality when he commissioned as a 2nd Lt. prior to his junior year. Aside from aviator skills and collegiate diplomas, Cray was an advocate of Soldiers and Airmen conquered larger feats.

Vermont’s Governor highlighted Cray’s theme of resilience.

“Three years ago, Gen. Cray came to me and said, ‘Sir, we need some help recruiting… Vermont’s the only state in the Northeast that doesn’t offer tuition assistance for members of their Guard which is impacting our recruiting and retention efforts,” said Gov. Phil Scott. “He convinced me that it was the right thing to do. While we didn’t get done the first year, he didn’t give up. In the second year, he continued to work with me and the legislature to careen the funds for this important benefit. If not for his tenacity, it may not have happened.”

For Cray’s dedication to the partnership amongst state nations North Macedonia and Senegal, Vermont’s F-35 base selection, and for the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s success, Cray was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

“The change of command is a military tradition that is wrought with symbolism and heritage,” announced U.S. Air Force. Col. Henry Harder, master of ceremonies as he queued the Passing of the Colors.

Command Sgt. Maj. Toby Quick, Vermont National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj, presented the Vermont State Colors, to the out-going commander, Cray. As the State Colors passed unto the hands of Scott, Vermont’s Commander-In-Chief, Cray’s relinquishment of command was finalized. Scott then delivered the Colors to the in-coming commander, Knight, to conclude the official transfer of command authority. Lastly, the Colors were handed back to Quick, the safeguard of the State’s Colors.

As Knight took the podium, he too acknowledged Cray’s selfless fidelity to the Vermont National Guard.

“It is never about him; his interest is that of the organization… and what a lesson that is… I am honored to follow in his footsteps,” Knight said.

During Knight’s humble delivery he recognized the profound value of mentorship he bestowed from a confidant and friend who recently passed.

“I am here because Brigadier General Mike Heston, one of my dearest and most loyal friends asked me to run, because he could not. Let’s take a few moments to remember Mike,” paused Knight.

Knight’s address delivered his vision for the Vermont National Guard’s future.

“I am excited by the possibilities the Guard can offer the young women and men. The Guard is all about possibilities and potential,” noted Knight as he outlined his intended collaborative amongst Guardsmen, fellow Vermonters, and the staff of the State House.

During his final moments before fellow Guardsmen, Cray noted that hardship and success is best experienced and endured as a team.

“The National Guard family is one of those places that you don’t know about until you experience it, and then when you experience it you realize how precious it is,” Cray acclaimed in a proud tone.

As this ceremony marked the last time that Cray will address a uniformed audience, he thanked all members of the Vermont National Guard for their direct and indirect contributions as he stressed,

“Don’t forget why you serve.”