Eleven current and former officials told VTDigger that the Vermont Air National Guard has tolerated a toxic culture of excessive drinking and pervasive partying, largely spearheaded by pilots. Alcohol abuse is also common during overseas deployments and domestic assignments. A retired chief master sergeant, Mark Parish, testified under oath in documents obtained by VTDigger that “it became an accepted behavior that individuals on [deployments] abuse alcohol.”
“It’s a good old boy’s club, and all the senior officers protect each other,” a former member said. “If you’re one of the beautiful pilots and are caught for drunk driving, it’s no big deal. But if you are enlisted folk and get the same citation, you are shown the fucking door.”
Guard members not only witnessed problematic drinking on the base, but at bars in Burlington.
“Some of the pilots thought they walked on water because they were pilots,” a female former Guard member said. “If you went to downtown Burlington to drink you’d often run into them, and if you declined their advances they’d take it out on you professionally.”
Some airmen have expressed concerns to Guard leadership over the drinking culture on the base, but contend that no meaningful reforms have been made.
The pilot’s bar is a fiercely protected perk on the Burlington base. Even as guard leadership sought to curtail drinking, they decided to keep the Afterburner Club open.
“The enlisted folks went through alcohol training, and saw availability to alcohol essentially cut off,” a former official said. “Meanwhile, pilots would retreat to the fighter bar and drink Jack Daniels and beer all night. It was a total double standard.”
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