Rosanne Greco, A Former Nun And Air Force Colonel, Turns To Serving South Burlington

07/26/12 7:50AM By Kirk Carapezza
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VPR/Kirk Carapezza
Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force colonel, at home in South Burlington.

Forty years ago, Rosanne Greco was a young novice at a Catholic college in New Jersey.

At 21, while considering her calling in life, she had a lot of questions, including one about a policy at the college that limited friendships among women. It was called the "particular friendship" policy.

"I thought what it meant was that you were uncharitable," Greco said. "You could never have two girls together alone, ever. If we wanted to go out for a walk you had to have at least three."

Courtesy of Rosanne Greco
Rosanne Greco, a novice, was dismissed from Assumption College in Mendham, N.J. She says she was devastated.
Greco and her friends suspected that the policy was in place to prevent them from getting too close, and Greco decided to take a stand.

After she spoke to the Mistress of Novices about wanting to spend more time with her friends, the Mistress ordered her to make a novena. That's a nine-day set of private prayers.

"Nine days later I come back. She asked me what the Holy Spirit said to me," Greco recalled. "I said, ‘The Holy Spirit said I got a vocation.' She said, ‘Well, the Holy Spirit told me you don't.'"

After years spent preparing to be a nun, Greco was dismissed from the college. She was traumatized.

"It wasn't as if I was a rabble-rouser by any means, but the mere fact that I was asking questions the Mistress of Novices, I think, saw me as a threat," Greco said.

After leaving the convent, Greco joined the Air Force where she spent 29 years.

Now retired, Greco has emerged as the most outspoken critic of the Pentagon's plan to bring F-35 fighter jets to Burlington. For the past few months, Greco has been criticizing the Air Force's environmental impact statement. As an intelligence officer and colonel in the military, she was trained to be meticulous in reviewing photographic satellite imagery. Now, in her volunteer role, she's taken a similar approach, reading everything the Air Force produces about the F-35. 

"I want to make a difference," Greco said. "And my passion is not the F-35. My passion is the land. My passion is protecting the environment."

Greco says she's been trying to open up the dialogue by raising lots of questions about how the F-35s would affect South Burlington's environment - about the Pentagon's scoring system and about the contour lines that show how many homes might be affected by noise created by the jets.

"All I'm asking now is for our Congressional delegates to please look into it," Greco said.

Courtesy of Rosanne Greco
Rosanne Greco is seen, fourth from right, meeting President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1983 before her delegation resumed nuclear arms control talks with Soviets in Geneva, Switzerland.
As she makes her case against the F-35s coming to her community, Greco sits in her two-story colonial home on Four Sisters Road in South Burlington. She lives here with her husband Higley.

In her living room, Greco flips through an old photo album that shows her years in the military. Here she is with President Ronald Reagan before going to to the arms control talks in Geneva, Switzerland in 1983. There she is shaking hands with President Bill Clinton.

Despite her exciting career, Greco says she feels settled here in South Burlington. Last year, she was elected to the City Council.

"I am going to die here. That was my campaign slogan," Greco said, laughing. "I may not have been born here but I'm going to die here - if that counts for anything."

Once the F-35 debate blows over, she says she wants to focus on expanding sustainable agriculture even in communities like South Burlington, which is one of the most highly developed in the state.

"We need to really rethink what we're doing and think about a new way of doing it," Greco said.

Greco says she doesn't want to be known for her opposition to the F-35 but for saving the land so that future generations will be able to eat locally.

She says it's her calling, or even her vocation.

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south_burlington f_35 air_force vermont_air_guard vermont_national_guard politics cities
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