ST. PAUL — Brig. Gen. Shawn Manke is the new Minnesota National Guard commander, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday, Aug. 12. Manke succeeds Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, who recently assumed the office of director of the Army National Guard following his appointment by President Donald Trump.
Manke, of Cambridge, Minn., will take on the title of state National Guard adjutant general having served with the force in several other leadership capacities since 2003. A former adjutant general advisor, he currently serves as the assistant commander of the 34th Infantry Division in Rosemount, Minn., where 10 National Guard brigades train for readiness with more than 23,000 service members from Minnesota and eight other states.
Manke's appointment comes several months after his predecessor was tapped to lead the Army National Guard. It also follows a period of elevated visibility for the state Guard, which in recent months aided in Minnesota's infection testing and other coronavirus response efforts, in addition to offering support to law enforcement during the protests sparked by George Floyd's death.
At a news conference Wednesday in St. Paul, Manke offered praise for Jensen and said his appointment is not a task that he takes lightly.
"I am honored to follow him in leading the soldiers and airmen of the Minnesota National Guard," Manke said. "I know that our state faces unprecedented challenges at this time, but I am eagerly looking forward to working with the other commissioners for the greater good of Minnesota."
Prior to joining the state Guard in 2003, Manke served as a U.S. Army aviator in Turkey, northern Iraq and Germany and has also deployed to Kosovo. As adjutant general, he will oversee both the Minnesota Air and Army National Guard forces. Officeholders serve for his seven-year term as head of the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs in the governor's cabinet.
Jensen, who was recently promoted from the rank of major general, headed up the state National Guard since 2017 and formally assumed his new office on Monday, Aug. 10. In between Jensen's departure and Manke's appointment Brig. Gen. Sandra Best acted as the state Guard's adjutant general.
A Minnesota National Guard veteran himself, Walz in a statement Wednesday said that he was already familiar with Manke and highlighted his experience overseeing soldiers and their well-being. Recent events in the state, he said, highlight the importance of the force, which is one of the largest state Guard contingents in the U.S.
"As we saw with Gen. Jensen, the rest of the country watches what the Minnesota National Guard does. They know what to expect of them and they know results will be exactly what we asked," Walz said.
Manke's appointment was the second that Walz announced on Wednesday in what he and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan called a bittersweet moment. Earlier in the day, the governor's office announced that Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans would be departing from his post for a senior leadership position at the University of Minnesota.
Walz appointed Jim Schowalter, who previously served as budget commissioner for Gov. Mark Dayton, to fill the vacancy and help the state to right a deficit brought on by the pandemic.