NEWS | March 11, 2021

National Guard leader honors Soldiers, Airmen during visit

By Don Branum Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

Senior leaders with the National Guard Bureau in Washington recognized several Vermont National Guard Soldiers and Airmen for their accomplishments during a visit to the Green Mountain State Feb. 26.

Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, gave challenge coins to several Soldiers and Airmen who exemplified the Vermont Guard’s mission to take care of its residents, who excelled in recruiting efforts, and who helped improve recruiting and retention with an eye toward diversity.

"Vermont Guard members are doing outstanding work for their communities and state -- and for our nation," Hokanson said. "We've had great visits today with Vermont Army Guard and Air Guard members, including excellent discussion with recruiters and with diversity and inclusion leaders. I'm continuously impressed with the contributions Guard members make every day."

Chief Warrant Officers Philip Small and John Labbe, Staff Sgt. Tim Farrow, and Sgt. Carlton Quenneville were recognized for their role in a hoist rescue near the peak of Spruce Mountain in August 2020. Labbe, Small and Farrow are assigned to Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, 86th Troop Command under Garrison Support Command. Quenneville is assigned to Detachment 1, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment,

“Everywhere I go, I hear stories about how our National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are doing amazing things,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tony Whitehead, the National Guard’s senior enlisted adviser. “We’ve all got first responder in our blood.”

“I’ve always wanted to do the mission that we’re doing,” said Small, who joined the Vermont National Guard out of high school. “Forty years just flies.”

Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Knapp, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Renick Darnell-Martin, Army Sgt. Gregory Jacobs and Air Force Staff Sgt. Freeman Degboe were recognized for their roles as recruiters in 2020. After coining the NCOs, Hokanson asked each of them what he could do to make their jobs as recruiters easier.

“Recruiting is a lot of hard work in a tough environment, and unlike a lot of other jobs, you have a scorecard,” Hokanson said. “It’s up to me to carry your feedback to the highest levels.”

In addition, Hokanson recognized Army Staff Sgt. Selena Correa and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kirby Addison, who’ve led attempts to increase diversity and inclusion within the Vermont Guard’s ranks.

“At the entry level, we’re very reflective of our communities and our nation,” Hokanson said. “But when you get to the mid-level NCO and officer levels, it drops off. We need the diversity we have at the entry levels to continue all the way up the organization.”

Correa and Addison have led town hall events focused on conversations about diversity and are recording a podcast called “Courageous Voices” that revolves around having sometimes difficult conversations. They accept questions for their podcast at CourageousVoicesPodcast@gmail.com.

“These conversations are something we need to have,” Hokanson said. “I want to talk to recruiters because they know what it takes to get people into the Army, but I also want to focus on diversity and inclusion, because that’s what it takes to keep people in.”