Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews becomes Army National Guard’s first female Native American general

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Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews' daughters Shannon and Lindsey attach her new shoulderboards reflecting her new rank during a formal promotion ceremony April 4 in the Senate Chamber of the state capitol building. Gov. Scott Walker promoted Mathews — the first Native American female to become a general officer in the entire Army National Guard — who will serve as the assistant adjutant general for readiness and training. Walker administered the oath of office to Mathews after the promotion ceremony. Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photo by Vaughn R. Larson

MADISON — Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews made history Monday, April 4th when she became the Army National Guard’s first female Native American general officer.

“I am so lucky and so blessed to be here, and it is all because of my family,” Mathews explained during a formal ceremony in the Senate Chamber of the state capitol building. “My biological family, and my military family.”

Gov. Scott Walker promoted Mathews and administered the oath of office, with her family nearby and military colleagues in attendance. Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, explained that the U.S. constitution authorizes the governor to appoint National Guard officers.

“Today, we have a great Soldier being promoted,” Dunbar said. “That resume is not an average resume.”

Dunbar detailed Mathews’ service in active duty – including her time supporting the no-fly zone in northern Iraq in the 1990s – and her roles in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a battalion commander, brigade commander, director of Army National Guard personnel and administration, and chief of staff.

“That is not the stuff of average performance,” Dunbar said. “That is the stuff of exceptional performance. She brings all of that, and her culture as a member of the tribe of Lac du Flambeau. She is a mom, she is a spouse, she is a sister, a daughter – and for our purposes today, a great Soldier.”

Mathews’ new role is the assistant adjutant general for readiness and training – a responsibility she promised to give “110 percent.”

Walker said it was an honor to take part in the promotion ceremony.

“Today the people of Wisconsin are honored to celebrate one of our great Soldiers, one of our great leaders,” Walker said. “On behalf of the 5.7 million in the state, I say congratulations to you and to your family – we know you don’t do this alone.”

Mathews agreed that many played a role in her military career. She thanked her mother, sisters and brother. She spoke of her late father, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division and who attended most of her military promotions. She thanked her husband Ric for his untiring support over the years.

“We have been through a lot,” she said. “You have been by my side every step of the way. You have helped me so much – words can’t describe. I am so thankful. I appreciate what you have done for me and for our family.”

Mathews acknowledged that she never envisioned becoming a general officer, and credited “a great organization” with great individuals.

“I think one of the best decisions I’ve made in my military career was to join the Wisconsin Army National Guard,” she said. “I think, bar none, we have the best Soldiers in the entire nation – active duty and National Guard.”