Gov. Tim Walz appointed a new leader of the Minnesota National Guard on Wednesday, selecting a longtime member who has marched up the ranks and along the way helped raise two children who also serve in the military.
Brig. Gen. Shawn Manke takes over for a seven-year term as adjutant general, succeeding Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, who is the newly installed leader of the Army National Guard’s forces nationally.
“Leading that organization is an incredible responsibility,” Walz, who served in the Guard for 24 years before becoming governor, said at a news conference with Manke at his side.
With 30 years of military experience, including aviation and positions across the Guard spectrum, Manke “is prepared to do this work,” Walz added.
The appointment gives Manke a seat in Walz’s cabinet and puts him in charge of the state Department of Military Affairs and the Minnesota Air and Army National Guard forces.
Manke has served in numerous leadership roles in the Minnesota National Guard since 2003. Most recently, he was assistant commander of the 34th Infantry Division based in Rosemount.
He also recently served as chief of staff at the Joint Force Headquarters, where he was an adviser to the adjutant general. Before that, he commanded the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade. Overseas Guard assignments for him include deployments to Kosovo and Iraq.
During the news conference with Walz, Manke said, “It is not a task that I take lightly, and I assure you, Governor Walz and the citizens of Minnesota, that I will do everything in my effort to make sure we sustain the best National Guard in the nation.”
Before joining the Guard, Manke served in the Army as an aviator and was deployed to Turkey, Iraq and Germany.
Manke lives in Cambridge, north of the Twin Cities, with his wife, Mary, a public school teacher. They have two children, Kalie and Lucas, who both serve as lieutenants in the Army.
Manke thanked his family for their continued support, noting they’ve “made service in the military a family affair. I’m blessed to have such a supportive family with my daughter and son choosing to serve in the Army.”
The change in command comes in the midst of the Guard playing key roles in helping Minnesota address some of its most troubled times in many years.
In late May, the Guard offered free COVID-19 testing in Minneapolis and five other locations across the state.
Soon afterward, more than 7,000 members of the Guard were called up for duty after George Floyd’s death on May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Their duties ranged from street patrols amid civil unrest to preparing food to handling logistics.