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Former Wisconsin National Guard leader, retired Maj. Gen. Albert Wilkening, dies after battling cancer

Former Wisconsin National Guard leader, retired Maj. Gen. Albert Wilkening, dies after battling cancer

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Wisconsin National Guard retired Maj. Gen. Albert Wilkening, who served as homeland security adviser to former Gov. Jim Doyle, died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, the state Department of Military Affairs said.

He was 74, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Wilkening’s wife, Pat, said in a posting on his CaringBridge site that Wilkening passed away at home shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“Al and I were blessed with extra time together,” she said. “That, in itself, is a miracle.”

Wilkening served as the state’s adjutant general from 2002 until his retirement in 2007.

“Few have had as significant and lasting positive impact on the Wisconsin National Guard as Maj. Gen. Wilkening,” retired Brig. Gen. Gary Ebben, former deputy adjutant general for Air and a close friend of Wilkening, said in a statement. “He has been a tremendous leader and role model for us all. A respected and great man.”

“I never had the honor of serving alongside Maj. Gen. Wilkening, but his reputation as a leader of character and courage is well-known,” Maj. Gen. Paul Knaap, Wisconsin’s current adjutant general, said in a statement.

Wilkening was credited with developing the framework for managing deployments and protocols for when Wisconsin service members lost their lives overseas, according to the Department of Military Affairs.

He served as chair of Gov. Doyle’s Homeland Security Council and in several command positions in the 115th Fighter Wing and the Wisconsin State Headquarters before leading the Wisconsin National Guard.

After joining the Air Force as a pilot in 1968, he became a flight training instructor after only one year. He joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard unit in Madison in 1973.

Wilkening earned several military awards, including the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal.

After retiring from the military, Wilkening stayed active with the Wisconsin chapter of the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve and was a strong supporter of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Wilkening is survived by his wife and two daughters, Jessica and Allison.

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