MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Army National Guard Col. Joane Mathews will make history Monday when Gov. Scott Walker, commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard, promotes her to brigadier general — making her the first female general in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Firsts aren’t new to Mathews, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians — she’s been breaking glass ceilings her entire 29-year military career.
She was also the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s first female Army chief of staff, the first female brigade commander, the first female commander of the 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, and the state’s first non-medical female colonel. Not only has Mathews succeeded in a military environment once dominated by men, she overcame humble beginnings on a Wisconsin Indian reservation en route to prominence in the Wisconsin National Guard.
Mathews admitted to experiencing a flood of emotions concerning her new role.
“I have several family members who have served well before me, and I am especially proud to carry on the legacy of military service my father had started,” she said. “I am also sad that he can’t be here to see me pin on this rank, as he had been to almost every other promotion in my career.
“I am hopeful to be a positive role model for other female service members,” Mathews continued, “anxious to begin this new chapter in my life, and excited — to serve in such a capacity is quite an honor.”
Walker, as the Wisconsin National Guard’s commander-in-chief and according to state and federal law, appoints all Wisconsin National Guard officers. He will swear in Mathews as the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s newest general officer during a private formal pinning ceremony Monday (April 4) in the Senate Chamber of the state capitol building.
Mathews will serve as the assistant adjutant general for readiness and training, Wisconsin Army National Guard. In her new role, she will assist Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, and ensure that Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers continue to be ready to respond as Wisconsin’s first military responder and America’s primary combat reserve.
“The Wisconsin Army National Guard is an exceptional organizational comprised of exceptional Soldiers,” Dunbar said. “It is one of those very Soldiers who has been selected for promotion to general officer, to ensure that this high level of performance and readiness continues.”
Mathews will be the first female general officer in Wisconsin Army National Guard history. However, Wisconsin National Guard member Sharon Vander Zyl became the first Army National Guard female general officer in 1992 when she was appointed special assistant to the chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and served at the National Guard Bureau. The Wisconsin Air National Guard gained its first female general officer in 2009 when Gov. Jim Doyle promoted Brig. Gen. Margaret Bair.
NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: Monday’s promotion ceremony is closed to the public and the media. Photos from the historic ceremony will be available on the Wisconsin National Guard’s Flickr account later that day, b-roll will be available on the Wisconsin National Guard YouTube channel, and a story will be posted as soon as possible. Contact Maj. Paul Rickert at the Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office (608-242-3050) if you wish to interview Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews Monday afternoon at Joint Force Headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.