Article View
News | Dec. 23, 2021

Newest 186th command sergeant major seeks to grow Soldiers’ potential

By Don Branum Vermont National Guard Public Affairs

The newest command sergeant major for the 186th Brigade Support Battalion, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), might not have served beyond her first enlistment if not for a couple of non-commissioned officers who saw her potential and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Now, Command Sgt. Maj. Melinda Crosby wants to help bring out the potential in the Soldiers in her unit.

Crosby, a native of Burlington, started her career two years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Army offered her a way to fund her education without accruing student loans.

“At a young age, my parents taught about financial responsibility, so in my junior year of high school, I weighed my options,” she said. “I decided the Army would provide the necessary benefits to get my professional career started.”

After 9/11, though, military culture and doctrine changed dramatically. Al-Qaida’s attacks had shown that insurgency could be as great a threat to national security as a conventional fighting force. The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in early 2003.

Crosby was deployed with the 64th Forward Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Ironhorse, out of Fort Carson, Colorado, in the initial wave of the Iraq invasion.

“I felt a major shift in our training and operations,” Crosby recalled. “At only 20 years old, I was sent on the advance party to receive our equipment, stage it, and prepare to move into Iraq.”

Initially, the plan called for Ironhorse to stage in Turkey and invade Iraq from the north. However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to invade Iraq from Turkish territory, so Ironhorse instead had to move through the Suez Canal and around the Arabian Peninsula to deploy from Kuwait. Crosby, who had been assigned to Task Force Log, was the only mechanic in the battalion on the ground to download the tracked vehicles and equipment and stage them for the main body’s arrival and onward movement.

“We had a bunker, our weapons, MOPP gear, little guidance, unknown threats, and a huge responsibility,” she said. “Our minds were focused on accomplishing the mission, keeping everyone alive, and getting home, but that changed when word came that we were not going home until the following year.”

That year saw high points such as the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but also lows: “pure exhaustion, constant attacks both direct and indirect, death on both sides.”

“It was a hard deployment, but it shaped me into who I am today,” she said.

Crosby returned to the United States and went onto inactive reserve status. That might have been the end of her Army career if not for a couple of key non-commissioned officers: an active-duty first sergeant and her original recruiter.

“I can tell you today that if it wasn’t for my former first sergeant on active duty who saw my potential, the Army would have lost me a long time ago,” she said. “As a leader, it’s so important to know the true character of your Soldiers.”

She had planned to work for General Motors in Lansing, Michigan, after getting out of the Army, but GM decided to shut down the plant when the economy turned sour.

“That changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. So when her original recruiter reached out to her again, she took the opportunity.

“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask questions and see what options were available,” she said. “This time around, it wasn’t necessarily the short-term benefits but the long-term career benefits that enticed me to want to continue to serve.”

Vermont was appealing because of her family roots.

“When I made the decision to move back, it was based on finding a solid career that would support me and future family,” she said. “The Vermont Guard offered everything I was looking for.”

She deployed to Afghanistan with the 86th ICBT (MTN) in 2010 and served on the lead team for the brigade commander’s personal security detail. Their primary mission included daily security convoys around Bagram Airfield and Regional Command-East. Working alongside teams from North Macedonia, they responded to direct and indirect threats to the region. In addition, as just one of two women assigned to the team, she played a key role the region’s female engagement team – crucial in a society that prohibits women from interacting with unfamiliar men.

2010 also served as a personal landmark not just for Crosby but for thousands of service members. That year, Congress passed a law ending the Defense Department’s long-standing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

“Throughout my professional career, I have always been protective of my personal life, primarily because DADT required me to hide my family,” she said. “Everyone else would talk about their loved ones and how much they missed them, but I would redirect and stay reserved, keeping a very small circle of trusted friends. I am grateful for leaders and mentors who helped me make it to 2010 and celebrated with my now-wife and I when it was repealed.”

Crosby’s served in several positions since 2010, including battalion assistant supply NCO, unit supply NCO, brigade transportation NCO, and the Logistics Directorate’s senior enlisted adviser. However, an assignment as first sergeant gave Crosby the strongest sense of calling. Based on the BSB’s logistics-related military occupational specialties, Crosby said she felt she was a good fit for the unit.

“I found a connection with a deeper personal purpose to serve Soldiers, their families, and the community around our installations,” she said. “As a logistician by trade, the BSB has always been near and dear to my heart. They’re extremely talented.”

Crosby advises Soldiers who want to make a career in the Guard to look for opportunities that might scare them a little.

“Be open and objective to opportunities outside your comfort zone,” she said. “This will open the door to many experiences, and you’ll gain critical skills and knowledge that you otherwise would never be exposed to. Know the organization and continue to grow professionally and personally. Because this is a small state, your experience will make you competitive, and having objectives can lead you toward your career goals.”

Vermont National Guard News
Vermont Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Gregory Knight addresses guests on May 26, 2022 during a a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Vermont.   

Maj. Gen. Knight was joined by Vermont’s Lt. Governor Molly Grey, Vermont Gold Star families, and veterans. The occasion marked the second time the ceremony was conducted at the Fallen Hero’s Memorial’s new site, a location accessible to the public.  (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Rivard)
Vermont National Guard holds Memorial Day ceremony
By Joshua Cohen | June 1, 2022
On May 26, 2022, the VTNG held a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Johnson in Colchester, Vermont.The occasion marked the second time the ceremony was conducted at the Fallen Hero’s Memorial’s new site, a location accessible to...

Brig. Gen. David Manfredi, director of joint staff for the Vermont National Guard, speaks during his retirement ceremony May 26, 2022, at Camp Johnson, Vermont. General Manfredi retired May 26 after more than 30 years of service, including assignments as commander of the 124th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) and commander of the 3-172nd Infantry (Mountain). He deployed to Afghanistan twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Rivard)
Vt. director of joint staff retires
By Joshua Cohen | May 27, 2022
The Vermont National Guard director of joint staff retired May 26, 2022, in a ceremony held at the Green Mountain Armory.Brig. Gen. David Manfredi served for 34 years both on active duty, with the 10th Mountain Division, and...

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Phil Vietje, an aviation instructor with C Company, 3-126th Aviation (Air Ambulance), Vermont Army National Guard, shows Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner around a UH-72 Lakota helicopter at the VTARNG Army Aviation Support Facility in South Burlington, Vermont, on May 12, 2022. The Vermont National Guard and Austrian Defence Ministry signed a State Partnership Program agreement May 11, 2022, to strengthen interagency cooperation and mutually improve in cyber defense, information operations, military mountaineering, humanitarian and disaster assistance response, and other areas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Don Branum)
Vermont Guard demonstrates rotary-wing capabilities for Austrian delegation
By Joshua Cohen | May 20, 2022
On May 12, a day after representatives from the Vermont National Guard and the Republic of Austria formally entered into a State Partner Program, Austrian Defence Minister Klaudia Tanner and staff were provided with...

Four U.S. Army Soldiers serving in the Vermont Army National Guard Biathlon Program received medals and recognition on May 14 at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Jericho, Vt., for their participation in the 2022 U.S. Biathlon Olympic Team.  Pictured from left to right,  Spc. Vasek Cervenka, Spc. Sean Doherty,  Sgt. Deedra Irwin and Warrant Officer Candidate Leif Nordgren. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Marcus Tracy)
Guard Biathletes receive medals for Olympic showing
By Joshua Cohen | May 18, 2022
On May 14, four Vermont Army National Guard soldiers, members of the National Guard Biathlon Program, received medals and recognition for their participation on the US Biathlon Olympic Team during the 2022 Olympics held last...

Leaders from Vermont, the Vermont National Guard, and the Republic of Austria gathered in Montpelier for a signing ceremony officially beginning a partnership between the Vermont National Guard and the Republic of Austria through National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

The Republic of Austria is the third partner nation with the Vermont National Guard through the State Partnership Program. Vermont also works and trains with North Macedonia and Senegal.
Vermont National Guard, Austria formally recognize partnership
By Maj. J. Scott Detweiler | May 11, 2022
Representatives from the Vermont National Guard and the Republic of Austria formally entered into a partnership May 11 at 2 p.m.Though work between the Austrian military and the Vermont National Guard is not new, the ceremony...