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Government Issue: Adjutant General Martha Rainville of the Vermont National Guard

first_imgby Joyce Marcel, Vermont Business Magazine It was the week of Town Meeting, and the last thing Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Martha Rainville expected was to be in the eye of a media hurricane.But a resolution questioning the war in Iraq – one-third of Vermont’s Guard is deployed in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – was on the warning in 58 towns, and the discussions attracted international attention. The Los Angeles Times covered Bethel’s Town Meeting, and The New York Times and the Asahi Shimbun of Tokyo covered Dummerston’s. Everyone wanted a comment from Rainville.Official Vermont National Guard portait of Adjutant General Martha Rainville.In person, Rainville, a youthful 47, is the last person you would imagine being a national media star. Small, gentle, well-spoken, pretty, intelligent and watchful, the word most often used to describe her is “caring.” In fact, when she was a major in the Vermont Air National Guard, they called her – respectfully, of course – “Major Mom.” Around the office, if you didn’t notice the two black stars on her camouflage uniform, you might mistake her for a secretary.That would be a mistake.Rainville, the first woman adjutant general in the history of the National Guard, commands with quiet authority. Although she has never been in battle, she is certainly not afraid of confrontation. In fact, she took a breathtaking leap in 1997, when, at 38 and a major in the Vermont Air Guard, she challenged Adjutant General Donald Edwards, a Vietnam veteran and the Guard’s commander for16 entrenched years, and took away his job.It made for a dramatic Vermont moment. The adjutantgeneral’s position is political; he or she is elected for two-year terms by a joint session of the Vermont House and Senate, much the way Vermont Supreme Court justices are. Rep. John Tracy (D-Burlington) supported Edwards in that initial fight, but recently he was the one who renominated Rainville for her fifth term.”I supported Edwards because he was the current adjutant general, he was a Vietnam veteran, as was I, and I felt that his military experience in Vietnam was crucial,” Tracy said. “But Martha Rainville has been exceptional. She has proved herself to Vermonters. I think we’re incredibly fortunate to have a leader like her. One guy e-mailed me that if it was anyone else in charge, he’d consider resigning. But because she is in charge, he would go to Iraq. When you’re talking about someone putting his life on the line – and that’s what they’re doing – it says it all for me.”Just after Town Meeting day, I met with Rainville at Camp Johnson in Colchester. Her office is decorated with photos of planes and people – most of them affectionately autographed. A torn green flag with signatures all over it was prominently displayed across a table. Rainville gives one of these “battle flags” to every commander whose unit is deployed; it is to remind the troops that they are proud Green Mountain Boys. She asks her officers to return the flag on their return.This one had just come back from Iraq with the First Battalion of the 86th Field Artillery, and it had been signed by virtually everyone in the unit. One soldier had drawn on it a cartoon of an Iraqi man holding up a stained finger and saying “Thank you for your vote.” No matter how one might feel about the war, knowing where this flag has been and what these soldiers have seen, felt and suffered in the service of their country inspires powerful emotions.The adjutant general’s job is to command the state’s forces. That makes her the CEO of what amounts to one of the largest businesses in Vermont, with a budget of just under $118 million, about 4,000 troops, and a force of about 920 full-time people (150 of whom are currently deployed) to support the Guard members. Her federal payroll alone is $75 million. She advises and works with the governor, works with the Vermont Legislature, works with Congress, insures that the Guard complies with federal requirements, and sees to it that it is well equipped, well trained, and able to perform its wartime tasks.The Vermont National Guard has two parts, the Army Guard, with about 2,800 troops, and the Air Guard, with just under 1,000, according to spokesperson Lt. Veronica Saffo.Right now, about 30 percent of the Guard – not 50 percent, as was widely reported during the debate over the Town Meeting resolution – is deployed away from Vermont. About 600 troops are in Kuwait on a security mission. About 65 are in Saudi Arabia on a security mission. About 100 are in Iraq. And about 400 are at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, training to go to Iraq.”It is important to understand that Vermont still has 70 percent of its Guard still here to respond to the Governor’s needs for homeland defense,” Saffo said. “Another fact that the resolution organizers put out that was incorrect is that National Guard soldiers are dying at a higher rate than our active duty counterparts. This is absolutely inaccurate. This was information put out by the National Guard Bureau and then corrected. To clarify, National Guard soldiers are not dying at a higher rate than active.”In a small state made up of small, close-knit communities, every combat death or injury is a widely-shared pain. At the time this was written, the Vermont Guard had suffered three combat-related casualties.”All were serving in Iraq and were part of Task Force Redleg, that just recently returned,” Saffo said. “We also had one soldier die of a heart attack while in Kuwait, preparing to go into Iraq. He was also a member of Redleg. There have been about 15 soldiers wounded in action with injuries serious enough that they could not return to duty within 24 hours. We have had about six that returned to the States and did not return to their mission in Iraq.”Although Rainville takes great pains to keep the Guard non-partisan, she was eager to discuss the Town Meeting resolution, which was approved by 50 towns, defeated by four, and passed over by four more. And she was anxious to make clear is that, today, the Guard has two distinct missions. On the state level, it responds to emergencies: ice storms, floods, security problems and the like. That makes one of Rainville’s bosses Gov. James Douglas. But more and more, the National Guard and the Reserves are being used as a compliment to the standing army. They are being sent to war zones. And that makes Rainville’s other boss the president of the United States.This is called “Total Force Doctrine,” Rainville said, and there are historical reasons behind it.”In World War I and World War II, over 2,000 Vermont Guard members were mobilized,” Rainville said. “In Vietnam, when the U.S. had a draft, the Guard was left at home. That kept it from being funded, among other things. But also, in my opinion, it left the war disconnected from the American people at the community level. This Total Force doctrine came about by saying we don’t ever want to fight another war that way. When this nation goes to war, we want to have the Guard and the Reserves and the American people involved. And I think it’s a very healthy thing.”Today’s Guard members understand that they may be deployed.”They know it’s likely that in the next three or four years, they’ll be mobilized,” Rainville said. “It’s not only going to Iraq. It could be a peace-keeping mission, a humanitarian mission, or a mission in a hostile area.”This is a different era for the Guard.”:Many citizens, particularly in Vermont, got used to seeing us only being called in a state role – particularly for the ice storms and floods,” Rainville said. “They became unaware that we have a very important federal role, and that’s part of the reason we exist. Last year, $115 million of my operations and maintenance budget was federal. Less than 3 percent came from the state – $2.8 million. It’s critical money; I use it to maintain armories and for the 118 state workers I have. For that $2.8 million, the state gets a huge amount of capability: people, equipment, facilities.”Rainville was pleased that the resolution had raised the Guard’s profile.”It’s nice to see the Guard in the news,” she said. “I like to see the soldiers and families and the emotion of serving – what it means to them – be highlighted. The discussion made people think about the Guard and their families. And really, it’s all about the people. I’m not as comfortable with the attention personally, but I think of myself as the face of the Guard, a spokesperson. When the Guard is deployed, it touches everyone in the community – employers, families, friends and neighbors. People are supporting their neighbors and their families. And in that wonderful Vermont way, they also step out and voice exactly what they think about the political decisions. I think it’s really important. I would ask the people who want to disconnect the Guard from federal service to think that through a little more.”Sending her troops off to fight in a foreign country is an incredibly difficult thing for Rainville to do.”There’s something inside of me and other senior leaders,” she said. “We want to go with them. Not to go to war, but to be with our units. Whatever they are faced with, we want to be there with them. But I can be their voice, be their advocate, fight for more equipment, visit them when they’re in training to make sure they get the training they need, take care of them when they get back, watch over their families when they’re away. So I can’t complain. There are real things I can do. But that pull is still there.”In fact, Rainville works overtime to support her troops. She makes sure they get the best training and equipment they can. She looks after their families when they are away. She attends funerals and visits the wounded. Recently, she has also taken under her wing Vermont’s business community; she is trying to bring new companies to the state and help Vermont companies secure defense contracts.Rainville is also well-connected in Washington. Recently, with the help of Vermont’s Congressional delegation, she secured $34 million in federal dollars to construct a state-of-the-art Army Aviation facility and training center at Burlington International Airport. It will replace a small, antiquated hangar facility, built 60 years ago, which served as the first headquarters of the Vermont Air Guard.Rainville is frequently honored for her work. She was one of 10 women in the world honored by the International Women’s Forum in 2002. The Business and Professional Women of Vermont named her “Woman of the Year” in 2004, and The Burlington Free Press just named her “Vermonter of the Year.”But the highest praise comes from her own officers.”The thing I noticed early on was that she genuinely cares about people,” said Col. Philip Murdock, the 158th Fighter Wing commander. “She communicates that. And that’s what people gravitate towards. Her leadership style is very positive, and people respond to positive people. Other than that, she’s very intelligent and very well-spoken and she communicates very well. People may not always get the answer they want to hear, but they know they have someone fighting for them who genuinely cares about what they do. I’m not trying to make her sound like she’s all fluff. She’s not. She has high standards and expects people to adhere to those standards. Basically, you don’t want to disappoint her. It’s a respect issue. You want to make sure you’re holding up your end.”Especially since 9/11, Rainville has been “entirely focused on doing the right things,” said Col. Clark Eaton, Chief of Staff of the Vermont Army National Guard.”That’s the shining light of Martha Rainville,” Eaton said. “She always has the best interest of the soldiers and families at the heart of whatever she does or asks us to do. In Washington, she’s well-networked and well respected and is not afraid to go out and get things done. It’s a pleasure to work for her. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s demanding in the best sense – on the right things. I guess I can’t say much bad about her. Instead of just focusing on turning out soldiers, in the past three years, in preparation for the global war on terrorism and now the war in Iraq, we have shifted to how can we take care of the whole Guard community – the soldiers and the families.”Gov. Douglas also has high praise for Rainville.”General Rainville is a strong and dedicated leader for the men and women of the Vermont National Guard,” Douglas said. “Her leadership and expertise has been particularly important through these very challenging times. As a Vermonter, she understands how close our National Guard units are to each other and to their communities, and she knows that the Vermont National Guard really is a family. She has worked hard to be sure that our troops receive the best training and the best equipment possible.”For Rainville, the most important thing is serving the general good and trying to make things better. You might as well call her – respectfully, of course – Vermont’s “General Mom.”EARLY LIFERainville was born in Groton, Conn., the second of three girls. Her father served on submarines in the Navy, so the family moved around. When he retired with the rank of Master Chief in 1969, the family moved back to the family’s home town, Port Gibson, Miss.She finished growing up on her grandmother’s farm. While her father taught electronics and electricity at the high school and junior college level, her mother worked on the farm. Rainville worked on the farm, too. She earned money for her class trip by picking pecans from the family’s trees.”They were selling for 30 cents a pound, and to get $30 – that was a lot of pecans,” Rainville said, laughing. “My sisters and I were lucky to be able to do that.”Her first paid job, at 14, was working seven hours a week “helping Miss Gretchen at the Port Gibson library. I was paid $2 an hour.” Her second paid job – through some of high school and college – was working at a country store. “I did everything,” she said. “I sliced meat and stocked shelves and worked the cash register. I picked apples in the back when the workers went on strike at apple time.”Rainville saved her money and used it to put herself through college. In 1979 she graduated from the University of Mississippi with a B.A. in elementary education.JOINING THE MILITARYNot many young women were thinking about the armed forces in 1979, but Rainville had her father’s example in front of her. When, during her senior year in college, she decided she wanted to look at other options before going into the classroom, she talked to her parents and several recruiters. It was the Air Force that attracted her.”My intention was to join for four years and then get out and go into teaching,” she said.It was a time when the Air Force was recruiting women and putting them in “non-traditional career paths” – in other words, not in secretarial work, personnel or nursing. Rainville was sent to officers training and put into aircraft maintenance.”Whatever base I was at, whatever assignment I had, I was the first woman maintenance officer they had ever dealt with,” Rainville said.At times, of course, she had to deal with intolerance, resistance and sexism. But she refuses to dwell on it.”I can’t sit here with two stars on and say I was ever stymied,” she said. “I was always fortunate – I had good supervisors, for the most part, and I had the chiefs, the master sergeants, who were my mentors. So I kept progressing.”Rainville’s work was on the flight line – where the planes take off, land and are parked.”It doesn’t mean I worked on aircraft myself,” Rainville said. “I was an officer. But it was down-to-earth. I got to work with people who worked with their hands. And it was hard work. I had to learn how to help change a tire and lube a plane and go through a short aircraft crew-chief course, just to understand what the men were doing. It’s very exciting on the flight line. It’s changeable. You never quite know what’s going to happen as far as maintenance is concerned. There’s scheduled maintenance and unscheduled maintenance. There’s the piece of it where you organize and plot it out on a chart and scheduled maintenance flow and that’s satisfying. And the unscheduled part is really challenging. You have to make decisions and motivate people and make sure the fight schedules are kept.”AN “INCLUSIVE” MANAGEMENT STYLEOfficer training taught Rainville the rules and regulations of the service. Working on the flight line taught her how to take care of soldiers.”You could say, to paraphrase the book title, that everything I know I learned on the flight line,” Rainville said. “If you want to improve how people are doing their job, if you want to know what the real health of your organization is, you have to get out and know what the people who are doing those jobs are thinking. Tap dancing doesn’t work. Trying to come up with something that sounds important or trying to act important doesn’t work. The only thing that works is working hard. I learned to listen not to just those who thought they had the answers, but to those people who actually owned the work.”Values were a big part of her training, Rainville said.”The Air Force demands of officers and NCOs a high degree of accountability,” she said. “Values are something you have to incorporate into who you are and what you do. You can’t have a certain set of values at home and another set at work. All you’ll do is confuse yourself. You have to be consistent and be yourself, so that people can trust you to be a real leader.”Rainville had an early start on values – she got hers from her parents.”I don’t ever remember my parents wanting to deceive somebody, or quibble on their taxes,” Rainville said. “I can remember my dad sitting down to do his taxes and grumbling and mumbling, but he was honest to a fault. My parents were very aware of treating people fairly. When I was growing up, our house was a neutral zone for the family – on both sides. Whenever there was a dispute and one person wasn’t talking to another, that was left in the driveway when they came into our house. My mother wouldn’t let anyone argue. Everyone was special and we love you all. That’s the way she was, and I saw that.”Rainville incorporated much of this into her management style. The most important part, however, Rainville said, is not trying to change yourself.”Learn, educate yourself, but don’t try to act opposite of who you really are,” she said.With the importance Rainville places on inclusivity and caring, some would say that she introduced traditionally female values into Air Force management. But she doesn’t see it as a gender issue.”One thing I’ve observed is that people wear their military leadership in different ways,” she said. “Maybe there are a group of personality types who see it as power. And I would argue there is authority inherent in rank. But there’s mostly responsibility. You have authority over people, but you’re responsible for their training and well-being. I would say it’s not so much a gender thing as a personality issue. I know I have a certain amount of power and authority. I don’t need to dwell on that. I dwell on making sure people have what they need to do their jobs and they’re taken care of and they know they’re valued.”MARRIAGE IN THE GUARDAlthough Rainville’s plan was to spend four years in active service and go back to civilian life, her life did not work out that way. While she was stationed in Florida, Rainville met a pilot from St. Albans, Vt. on the flight line. They married and in 1981 she found herself stationed at Griffis Air Force Base in New York. Her husband left active service, went into the Air National Guard, and was stationed at Syracuse. The family lived between the two assignments.After the birth of her second child, Rainville, who was working 10-plus-hour days, decided her life was out of balance. She left active service and joined the Guard.”I loved the service and I felt it was important work,” she said. “The perfect solution was to join the Guard, where I could be very part-time – at that time – and raise my children.”When her husband became a pilot for Northwest Airlines, the family moved to Minneapolis. Rainville transferred to the Guard there, moving from maintenance to combat support. Her job required her to travel, yet she still spent most of her time with her children. She was up for a promotion to major when, in 1988, Northwest based her husband in Boston and the family moved to Vermont.In Vermont, Rainville got lucky. There was an open slot for a maintenance officer in the 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air Guard, and she made an easy transfer. The couple also adopted a third child from Korea. Her son and one daughter are now in college, and the other daughter is in medical school. Rainville’s husband remains a pilot for Northwest, but they are now divorced.In 1991, Rainville proudly took command of the 158thAircraft Maintenance Squadron of the Vermont Air National Guard. She still gets excited talking about the unit.”We went to William Tell, which is an international weapons competition in Florida, and won it,” Rainville said. “It’s a high performing unit with a great reputation. The NCOs and the crew chiefs there, I tell them that they are responsible for me. They raised me, and whatever I do, it’s their fault.”ADJUTANT GENERALIn 1997, Adjutant General Edwards had been running the Guard for 16 years, but there was dissension in the ranks.According to fighter pilot Lt. Col. Scott Baldwin, who recently retired after 26 years in the Guard, there were many reasons for disliking Edwards.”Edwards had been around a long time, and surrounded himself with relatively incompetent people,” Baldwin said. “And absolute power corrupts absolutely, and, well, he had absolute power. He just had to keep the Legislature happy and everybody else be damned. He was not a well-respected leader.The catalyst for revolution, however, was symbolic. The Vermont Guard is historically known as the Green Mountain Boys, a name with great emotional resonance stretching back to Ethan Allen and the Revolutionary War.Edwards went to a meeting in Syracuse, where the Guard there, nicknamed “The Boys from Syracuse” after an old Broadway show, was having sexual discrimination problems. One thing it needed to do was change its name, and Edwards wanted to change Vermont’s nickname for the same reason. But sexual discrimination was not an issue in Vermont, Rainville said, and the name change hit the Guard like a bomb.”It’s not about being Green, or Mountain or Boy,” Rainville said. “It’s being independent-minded, being a citizen who serves the community, state and nation. That’s what it’s about. And Edwards didn’t get it.”Dealing with Edwards had become difficult for Rainville.”Decisions were being made that I disagreed with,” she said. “But as a commander in the military, if your boss makes a decision, you are obligated to not only to carry out the decision, but also without any negative comments. You can’t say, “Uggggh, I have to do this.’ You have to put a smile on your face and go forward. It was a moral dilemma. How can I carry on as a commander with this many hundred people looking to me for guidance and leadership, being asked to pass on this decision that I disagreed with.”It was not the first time Rainville had disagreed with the chain of command. When it had happened before, she had tried to serve as a buffer between her superiors and her troops. “But what was unique about this situation was there was something I could do within the system,” Rainville said.When Rainville was first approached about taking on Edwards, she thought it was a joke.”The first person who talked me – I’ll never forget the moment – I said ‘Are you kidding?'” Rainville said. “But they said it was very serious. I realized I was at a crossroads. I could either stop doing what I’m doing, not be a commander, and either transfer units or get out of the Guard, or I could step up. I was a traditional Guardsman. I was not full-time. I had a husband who could pay the mortgage, and I wasn’t risking much in terms of finances. Maybe I was risking my retirement. But it was a very difficult decision because I’m at heart a loyal person, and it’s not easy to stand up against the person who should be leading and setting the example.”According to Baldwin, Rainville was perfect for the job.”Martha was outstandingly competent, obviously a true leader, very well-spoken and well-respected by everyone who ever worked for her,” Baldwin said. “I knew she would do a great job, and the fact that she was female didn’t work against us. In the South it might have, but in Vermont, people go for the person.”Baldwin describes himself as Rainville’s “overt campaign manager.””We had another campaign manager who was covert, because dealing with the general we were trying to unseat, we were worried about our jobs,” Baldwin said. “If we didn’t win, it wasn’t going to be pretty.”Rainville told Edwards she was running against him.”He didn’t take it well at all,” Rainville said. “He raved quite a bit, and it was pretty negative. But it needed to be done. You don’t go behind people’s backs.”After the press got wind of the contested election, Rainville began campaigning seriously.”I went to every legislator, either at their home or at their business,” she said. “I told them why I was running in a positive way, and what I wanted to do. It was pretty intense for a couple of months. Up until the last few days, many people were saying I didn’t have a chance. But the Guard members were talking to their legislators around the state, and more and more information came out.”Rainville won by a decisive margin. Edwards retired and left the Guard.”He didn’t speak to me after he lost,” Rainville said.THE BIG JOBOnce Rainville had the job, she set about putting her stamp on it. If anything, she now believes she moved too slowly.”In my concern for not creating a lot of turbulence, so that the men and women of the Guard could continue on with their work, I took a slow approach to replacing senior staff with people who were compatible with my vision,” Rainville said. “I don’t mean with people who were the same as me or who agreed with me, but with people who were compatible with the vision I had for the Guard. In retrospect, that was a mistake. There were a couple of key people, and I waited too long for them to change. And they were never going to change, and they caused problems for the organization. What I learned from that you can’t be too nice sometimes. People don’t really change at heart, and you have to be smart enough to figure that out and let them go. Let them go with retirement and go with dignity, but not let them negatively impact the organization. That’s what I would do differently if I ever were to come into a situation like this again.”The business term for learning from your mistakes is “continuous improvement,” Rainville said with a rueful laugh.” You just can’t dwell on mistakes,” she said. “You look at it, analyze what you did and why it failed, readjust and move on.”It comes as no surprise that dealing with people is what Rainville likes most about her job.”The best part is when I get to get out in the field with the soldiers or down on the flight line or in supply or around the base with the Air Guard and just talk,” Rainville said. “It’s a renewal. You find out what’s important and get some solid ideas.” Before the war, serious discipline was the hardest part of the job. Now she sometimes has to go to funerals.”I feel for the families,” she said. “It takes a toll on the immediate family, and it takes a toll on the Guard family. Because we are a family. You can see the ripples of grief in the community.”RECRUITMENT AND RETENTIONWith the Guard actively fighting a war, recruiting new soldiers and keeping the trained ones has become a challenge. The Guard is offering increased benefits and bonuses – $10,000 to $15,000, depending on prior service – to attract more people. But in January, for example, the Guard lost 40 people and gained 20. February was a little better – the Guard gained five more than it lost, Rainville said. But many Guard members who have hit their 20-year mark are retiring.”It’s predictable and explainable, but we have to build back up,” Rainville said. “In January we had soldiers hitting their 20-year good service who elected to retire rather than continue on. Without the mobilization, most would have elected to stay on. But they had 20 good years, and they deserved their retirement.”The Guard is changing with the times, Rainville said.”We’re shifting the force and changing over to the force we’re going to be for the next five years,” she said. “And that’s a force with the full acceptance of mobilization. We’ve cleaned the force, to a degree. The force we’re left with is very solid, very aware of mobilization and prepared. Building on top of that gets us, in the end, a stronger Guard.”BUSINESS AND THE GUARDEmployers are understandably nervous about the deployment of their Guard employees for, sometimes, years at a time. One reason is that federal law requires employers to offer the returned employee the same job they had or an equivalent one. Guard members also continue to accrue seniority. Although employers are not obligated to pay salary or health benefits while their employees are deployed, replacing them with temps or increasing the work load of non-Guard members takes its toll.To help employers, the Guard has formed a committee of business people – Employers Support the Guard and Reserves – to answer questions, educate employers on their federal requirements and rights, and work out issues. The Guard also has two full-time employees who work on employer-employee issues.”We’re also an employer here,” Rainville said. “I have 150 full-time employees who are deployed. So we are also coping to some degree with having people do several extra jobs – we’ve only been able to backfill a third of the positions. So in some ways, we’re sharing the pain.”For the most part, Vermont employers have stepped up to the plate. Some keep their deployed employees on salary. Some make up the difference if the Guard paycheck is less than the salary paycheck. Some check on the welfare of the families with frequent phone calls. Some put up yellow ribbons. Some send CARE packages. Some even shovel driveways.”It’s heartwarming,” Rainville said. “Some companies, even small ones, will allow the families to retain their health care coverage. The military insurance does cover the families, but they might have to change providers. This way they can stay with doctors they know. We have seen an incredibly low rate of complaints from employers. It’s that neighborly, small-town approach. Employers are sticking by their employees. And it’s so important to that soldier, being able to focus on doing the mission and not worrying about their family or having a job when they come back.”In exchange, employers get back experienced, loyal employees, Rainville said. And the Guard member may possibly get new job offers.”The Williston police chief sent me a letter,” she said. “Obviously, they’re trying to recruit officers. He said he’s very interested in the skills and experiences of the soldiers who are coming back. He wanted me to put him in touch with some, because he wants to put them to work.”Rainville has recently taken a new and creative role in helping Vermont businesses. In June, she hosted the Adjutant General Association’s conference with a two-fold mission in mind: enticing businesses to move here, and helping Vermont businesses get defense and government contracts.”We worked with Economic Development and (Agency of Commerce and Community Development) Secretary Kevin Dorn with this,” Rainville said. “They set up a booth and worked with companies that might be interested in bringing their jobs to Vermont.”The National Guard has a lobbying organization, the National Guard Association, which can help businessmen learn how to secure defense contracts.”Vermont companies have great products and real rolesto play,” Rainville said. “This is about doing something for the greater good. If we can be great soldiers and airmen and defend the country, and at the same time benefit Vermonters by wrapping our arms around businesses and bringing jobs and selling products that benefit people in Vermont, it’s a win-win.”FUTURE PLANSThe adjutant general goes up for reappointment every two years, and Rainville has just won her fifth term in office. But she has made it clear that she believes in changes at the top.”I love this job, and I’m possessive enough that it would be really hard to step aside right now and see somebody else take it,” Rainville said. “I’d want to make sure everyone’s taken care of. But having said that, I also believe that, especially in a military organization, senior leadership has got change. There needs to be rotation. You can get stagnant no matter how much you try not to. You need to be able to bring fresh ideas in, and in the military we do that by changing commanders. When I came into the job, I said I didn’t want to be here as long as my predecessor or some of the other adjutants. And there are several tremendous people out there who would be great adjutants.”If she leaves the Guard, it seems likely that Rainville will remain in Vermont.”I feel very rooted to Vermont,” Rainville said. “I love Vermont. I was a small-town girl, a farm family, and that’s what I found in Vermont. I’ve been here long enough that my Rainville family roots run deep, my children are here, and I have a hard time imagining living anywhere else.”Rainville’s name is often mentioned when people talk about future governors. While she remains resolutely non-partisan now, she might, at some future time, declare a party affiliation and run for another elected office. Right now, however, she is looking at all her options.”I enjoy people,” Rainville said. “What I liked when I got in the Air Force was the feeling I was doing something for others, that what counts is the greater good – trying to make things better, whether it’s the military sector or education or business or government. What I’m looking for is something that will allow me to do that. I’m looking for the opportunity to serve.”last_img

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