BRATTLEBORO — Lt. Col. Laura Caputo from the Air National Guard paid a visit to Brattleboro recently for a Rotary Club as the Guard's first community outreach in the southern part of the state.
Caputo, of Burlington, has 23 years of experience in the Air Force and came to Brattleboro to share her passion for the field, to educate people about the Air National Guard base and to make new connections.
"Our biggest goal is to build relationships because we know there are so many people in the state that don't know about us," said Caputo. "And we don't necessarily need people to join us to support us, but we need their support, right? And you can't support someone if you don't know about them."
In her brief presentation to members and guests to the Rotary Club, Caputo promoted the Vermont Air National Guard by explaining what employees do for work there and to break any possibly misconceptions.
"We basically have three jobs for the Vermont Air National Guard, but one of the F-16s is actually not our primary job," said Caputo. "Our primary job is our responsibility to the state, our domestic operations mission."
According to Caputo, the most recent domestic operation was Tropical Storm Irene, a large and destructive tropical cyclone, which affected much of the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States during late August 2011. During this event, Caputo worked as an intelligence officer for the operation, where she says 979 soldiers were activated, 400 which were from Vermont. She said the Air National Guard helped with rebuilding roads and commodity distribution. For Caputo this was the first time she felt that she "fought for the people," within the state in which she resides.
"I really like being activated for Hurrican Irene, even as hard as it was and they were really long days, and it was devastating to see what was happening in Vermont. We always say that we're fighting for our Americans, well, you really see what you're fighting for when you're in a domestic operation like that," said Caputo.
She was commissioned as an officer in 1992 after attending the University of Illinois on a four year Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship. She balanced her academic life as an athlete on U of I's Division I Women's Gymnastics Team, and following the completion of her Bachelor's degree in biochemistry, she attended Air Force pilot training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. She spent the next 15 years travelling the world and flying T-37, KC-10 and C-21 aircraft in support of multiple worldwide operations throughout the Middle East and Europe. In 2008, Caputo re-trained into a new career field as an Intelligence Officer. She currently serves as the Senior Intelligence Officer for the 158th Operations Support Squadron, and as part of the Fighter Wing's Community Outreach Team. She's a mother of two children, ages 9 and 7, and works on a part-time, or "traditional" basis. Caputo's husband is also in the Vermont Air National Guard and they reside in Burlington.
Out of all the work that Caputo has completed in her career, she says the most challenging aspect of the Air Force is its evolution.
"The Air Force that I joined 24 years ago is not the Air Force of today. There's a lot of great things about that, but there is also a lot of pain that comes with change," said Caputo.
Caputo says she accepts this change by acknowledging that some of the knowledge she learned about the Air Force 10 years ago, simply may not be the same as it is today, which may require "relearning."
The Vermont Air National Guard community outreach launched about 10 months ago and actual outreach started six or seven months ago. Caputo is one of eight community outreach officers and hopes that more will continue throughout the state.
"This was our first outreach in the southern party of the state, I love getting to know the people and area and visit some historic sites on my way down. We look forward to anymore of these opportunities, or we look forward to anyone that wants to come up," said Caputo.
"The community outreach program is valuable in that it helps establish a positive relationship between the Vermont Air National Guard and surrounding communities," said Chief Master Sergeant Chad Mulverhill, the Chief Enlisted Manager of the Logistics Readiness Squadron. "I find there are not a lot of people, in southern Vermont, that truly understand the missions of the VTANG. By meeting with members of the community we're able to tell our story and hopefully answer any questions people may have. We're extremely proud of the work we do and want the citizens of Vermont to know we're ready and willing to take action in the event the President of the United States or the Governor of Vermont call on us."