Middlebury businessman rises to the rank of one-star general

MIDDLEBURY — After more than two and a half decades of military service, Middlebury resident Brian Carpenter has been promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the U.S. Army. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on May 26, making it 27 years to the day since he was first commissioned for service.
“It was a pretty exciting day,” said Carpenter, of the morning when he learned of his promotion.
As a one-star general, Carpenter will now be responsible for the Army side of the Vermont National Guard. The Guard’s four brigade commanders report to him, and he must make sure that they are properly trained, equipped and staffed for their missions.
Carpenter, who owns and manages Champlain Valley Equipment, credits his promotion to the people who have surrounded him his entire career, as well as “a degree of fate and chance.”
“You have to succeed at each particular assignment in order to be recognized and move up,” said Carpenter, “I’ve always had great people around me, so we’ve always succeeded … it’s always been a team effort.”
Carpenter grew up in Middlebury, knowing practically nothing about the military. He graduated from Middlebury Union High School in 1980 before attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
“I wanted to go to a good school, (but) I didn’t want to come out with a huge debt,” said Carpenter, who managed to do just that by committing to four years of service in the Army in exchange for a full-ride to the school of his choice.
“My original plan was to do my four years and get out,” he said. “(But) then I really saw that I was doing something that was important. I felt good about it, and stayed involved.”
His involvement has now spanned 27 years, nine of which were spent on active duty. Carpenter was involved in the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama and the overthrow of its violent military dictator, Manual Noriega. He was also prepared to deploy during Operation Desert Storm, the military operation that pushed Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the First Persian Gulf War in 1991, but was held back as part of a strategic reserve unit.
On the home front, Carpenter commanded a battalion helping to secure the Arizona border during the federal “War on Drugs.”
Following his active duty, Carpenter returned to Vermont in 1993 with his wife, Nanette, and became the general manager of Champlain Valley Equipment, a business started by his father in 1970. Located on Exchange Street in Middlebury, the business has expanded under Carpenter’s ownership, with satellite stores sprouting up in St. Albans and Derby.
Carpenter’s military involvement has also expanded since his return to Vermont, where he has taken various leadership positions within the Vermont National Guard. These positions include time commanding the 1st Battalion 86th Field Artillery, the 186th Forward Support Battalion, and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The 86th IBCT was deployed to Afghanistan in March 2010, and returned home in December. Carpenter also spent time as the commander of the Vermont State Troop Command, which is comprised of all the deployable units in the state. This includes medical practitioners, engineers and aviation units, among others.
After graduating from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., Carpenter was nominated for the position of brigadier general by the Adjutant General Michael Dubie. He was informed of his promotion the morning following its confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
“It was just kind of one of those euphoric moments,” said Carpenter. “You know, it’s a lot of years. I’ve put a lot of time in.”
Carpenter is also immensely grateful to his wife and children, who have “been very supportive” throughout his military career.
“They’re always worried about (me) when I’m gone, and they worry because of the world situation,” said Carpenter, “but they know that it’s important to me.”
Even so, it was only with the approval of his two children, Olivia and Spencer, both still in the Middlebury school system, that he has continued to serve.
“I’m well over 20 years, (so) I could have retired at any time. But I kept feeling good about what I was doing … so I asked my kids if they’d support me staying in.”
Their continued approval has paid off, as he is now actually less likely to travel overseas in his new capacity as brigadier general, though it does come with an increase in behind-the-scenes, stateside duties and responsibilities.
“I’m just really proud of what the Vermont Guard has done,” said Carpenter, “and I’m quite excited to be such a big part of it.”
Ian Trombulak is at [email protected].

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