COLCHESTER, Vt. — The Vermont National Guard has announced that women can now be directly recruited into the Cavalry Squadron.

According to a release, this would be the first time in the National Guard’s 384 years that a combat arms unit the size of a battalion could directly recruit women.

The Department of the Army opened combat roles to women in 2016, but up until now they could only be transferred in from other units. Before they could be recruited directly, certain conditions needed to be met. Among them, according to the release, installing women in leadership roles throughout the squadron, completing gender integration training and “demonstrating a healthy unit culture through an Organizational Climate Survey.”

The move was praised by Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women.

“I know they’ve recently hired a diversity officer who’s paying attention to this, so we’re very optimistic, but there’s a lot of work still to do,” she said. “I would say I really applaud them for opening up as many roles as possible to women.”

The commission last met with the Vermont National Guard in January 2019, she said, and is scheduled to meet with Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, adjutant general, of the Guard, in March for an update on how things have been for women in the organization.

The commission recently met with Doris Sumner, the Guard Joint Force Headquarters equal employment and diversity manager, said Brown.

“One of the best tools for improving conditions for women in the Guard is having more women there, and having more women at all levels and in all areas,” said Brown. “So this seems like fantastic news to me.”

Calls to Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs Officer, Capt. Mike Arcovitch, were not returned Thursday.

“I am incredibly proud of the soldiers and senior leaders of our squadron,” stated Knight in the Guard release. “This represents a significant milestone in making the Vermont National Guard an organization that provides opportunity for all. Their focus and hard work made this a reality.”

The process required to allow women to be directly recruited into the unit was a difficult one, stated Col. Brey Hopkins, commander of the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain).

“But despite the difficulty, we were committed to this,” he stated. “We are eager to integrate more women throughout the unit because it improves our readiness and capability.”

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com

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