A former leader of the Wisconsin National Guard, retired Maj. Gen. James Blaney, died Sunday, the Guard said. He was 82.
Blaney was appointed as the state’s adjutant general in August 1997, and he held the position for five years. It was during that time that the Global War on Terrorism began following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The morning of the attacks, Blaney was in a Madison hospital preparing for knee surgery and he returned to his duties with the Wisconsin National Guard two weeks later.
He wrote in a November 2001 edition of @ease, an official newsletter of the Wisconsin National Guard, “I knew the state’s National Guard was in good hands, so I was not the least bit surprised as I watched how professionally and effectively the Guard performed in the first uncertain weeks that followed Sept. 11.”
A resident of Lake Delton, Blaney joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1960 as an enlisted soldier and had served nearly 42 years by the time he retired in 2002.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education at UW-La Crosse, then known as La Crosse State University, in 1964 and a master’s degree in education in 1969. Blaney graduated from Command and General Staff College in 1979 and the U.S. Army War College in 1984.
He served as a military leadership instructor in Madison from 1968 to 1970 and later served as commandant of the Wisconsin Military Academy at Camp Williams from 1984 to 1987. He headed the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry from 1980 to 1983, the 64th Troop Command from 1987 to 1990 and the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade from 1991 to 1995.
Blaney, the last Army officer to serve as Wisconsin’s adjutant general, was named assistant adjutant general for special operations in 1995 and became deputy adjutant general the following year.
His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star and Army Service Ribbon.
“The Wisconsin National Guard has had an outstanding leader in [Maj. Gen.] Blaney, and he has earned our deepest appreciation for his service to our state and nation for more than four decades,” former Gov. Scott McCallum said in August 2002 when Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening became adjutant general. Wilkening passed away April 8 of this year after a long battle with cancer.
Blaney and his wife, Ramona Kane-Blaney, who served in the Wisconsin National Guard for 30 years, spent much of retirement wintering in Arizona, playing golf and traveling. He also was involved with American Legion Post 309 in his hometown of Kendall.
They were married on April 26, 1991, in Woodstock, Illinois, according to his obituary.
“His whole life was the National Guard,” his wife said. “He loved what he did and all the people he served with.”
He is survived by his wife and sons, Gary Blaney, of Bellevue, Washington, and Scott Blaney, of Phoenix, Arizona.