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The Minnesota National Guard commander whose soldiers effectively quelled the Twin Cities riots overnight once Gov. Tim Walz authorized the necessary troops to do the job has gotten a big-time promotion.
Major Gen. Jon Jensen, who served for three years as Minnesota Adjutant General, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become director of the Army National Guard with 350,000 national guard troops across the country under his command. Several deployments abroad are listed among the highlights on the now three-star general’s resume noted in the Star Tribune.
An Iowa native and Northwest Missouri State University graduate, Jensen has served in the Guard for 37 years. He has been deployed to Kuwait, Bosnia and twice to Iraq while serving with the 34th Infantry Division. He commanded the division before becoming his state’s adjutant general.
Yet Jensen came to most Minnesotans’ attention only recently. The announcement of his nomination to the prestigious position by President Trump came the day after Memorial Day, but was quickly swept aside by protests breaking out in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd in police custody the night before.
After three nights of rioting, looting, the evacuation and burning of the Third Precinct police station, however, Jensen made headlines with a no-nonsense response that exposed a vacuum of leadership among elected officials responsible for coordinating with the national guard to restore public safety.
Minnesota National Guard Major Gen. Jon A. Jensen cleared up the confusion at a tense Friday news conference with the astounding revelation that his unit had assembled from around the state for deployment but was never given its mission by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey or city authorities.
“As we met as a senior team yesterday afternoon, the one topic that continued to be discussed was the lack of clarity and the lack of a mission and a description of what exactly the National Guard needed to do,” Jensen said at the media briefing. “…We never got such a mission assignment. We never got such mission description.”
In the cover story of the new issue of Thinking Minnesota, American Experiment documents the failure of top city and state elected officials to provide the necessary resources to allow Jensen’s guard troops and law enforcement to regain control of Twin Cities streets and neighborhoods until Saturday, May 30.
In an interview with NPR’s Ailsa Chang at the time, Jensen strongly defended arming his troops with live ammunition to defend themselves during the riots.
CHANG: That said, I understand that your guard members have been armed with rifles and real…
CHANG: Are you concerned that that could escalate things?
JENSEN: Absolutely. It’s a very dynamic situation. It’s an incredibly complex environment. We elected to arm our soldiers on the very first day, in part because of a – what I believed was a credible threat against the Minnesota National Guards. We were going to ask them to do something very difficult. We wanted to make sure that they had all the tools in place to be successful.
Minnesotans were fortunate to have Major Gen. Jensen in command at one of the most critical times in state history. His yet-to-be-named successor has big boots to fill.