Volk Field’s lodging and conference center will now bear the name of the former adjutant general who took steps to ensure the Air National Guard base near Camp Douglas, Wisconsin not only survived, but thrived.
“Al will now be part of this base that he loved, forever,” said Pat Wilkening, wife of the late Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, during a formal renaming ceremony Oct. 1 at what is now the Wilkening Lodging and Conference Center. “Such an incredible honor.”
Brig. Gen. David May, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Air and a former commander at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, said Maj. Gen. Wilkening’s vision and actions were essential to Volk Field’s current capabilities.
“When the prevailing thought was that we should close the Air National Guard’s field training sites, including Volk Field, Maj. Gen. Wilkening pushed in the opposite direction,” May said. “Instead of closing, he pushed for modernizing and bolstering these installations, leading to the creation of the four Combat Readiness Training Centers, Volk Field being the largest — you can fit all of the other three CRTCs inside the Volk Field fence line two-and-a-half times.
“The facilities built since that time, like this amazing hotel and conference center, stand as a testament to his success,” May continued, “providing continuous training opportunities to tens of thousands of service members each year.”
Maj. Gen. Wilkening’s vision was cast not just over the horizon but toward the heavens, May said, by aiming to modernize an airspace complex that consisted of blocks of aerial real estate originally measured out for World War II aircraft. Wilkening led the Great Lakes Regional Airspace Council and developed a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, which eventually led to periodic access to higher airspace up to 50,000 feet. This allowed the F-22 and F-35 aircraft to exercise their tactics as intended, which greatly benefitted exercises such as Northern Lightning.
“Other airspace complexes needed to modernize as badly as we did, and his efforts put us 15 to 20 years ahead of many others,” May said. “The path he blazed also streamlined the modernization of other air space complexes that followed.”
Eakins agreed, noting that Wilkening’s pursuit of national training spaces enabled future aircraft to exercise their full spectrum of capabilities.
“His efforts not only improved national training infrastructure, they paved the way for Volk Field to be known as a national treasure — not only of the Air National Guard, but Department of Defense aviation training,” Eakins said. “Through advanced range instrumentation and modern facilities like the Volk Field Lodge and Meeting Center, his efforts have ensured that future aviators and Airmen are able to compete and win against any enemy, in any environment.”
Maj. Gen. Wilkening’s strategic understanding of future warfighter needs, Eakins said, has positioned Volk Field to become the home of the Air National Guard’s largest exercise involving fourth-generation and fifth-generation aircraft. This yields valuable training, and solidifies “the enduring impact one member can have on future generations.
“Maj. Gen. Wilkening’s legacy is much more than this hotel,” Eakins continued. “It is the Airmen that walk through its hallways and fly in its airspace. His impact is felt every day and will be realized for generations.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said that despite never having met Maj. Gen. Wilkening, he can appreciate the depth and value of Wilkening’s work and foundational foresight.
“The impact of his leadership is still evident today in how we are structured as a Joint Force Headquarters,” Knapp said, “how we respond to our state’s needs, in how we run our Joint Operations Center and State Emergency Operations Center, and our Homeland Security Council. His actions laid the foundation for our readiness in the homeland and deployments abroad.”
Knapp said that how the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs responded to the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced to Wilkening’s vision and planning.
“Maj. Gen. Wilkening was identified as a ‘super TAG,’” Knapp said, using a common acronym for the adjutant general. “He was responsible for not only the Wisconsin National Guard and Emergency Management, but also as the governor’s Homeland Security advisor — a triad of responsibility that very few other TAGs had at the time.
“But I believe those who knew and served with him would agree that he really was a super TAG,” Knapp continued. “Not because of his responsibilities as a leader in the Guard and in the state, but because he truly was the great, remarkable and kind man that you’ve heard described today.”
Pat Wilkening expressed her gratitude during the ceremony.
“This is an incredible tribute to Al,” she said.
The Wilkening Lodging and Conference Center is a 205,745-square-foot facility with 1,035 available beds and four conference rooms. In the last fiscal year, it hosted more than 238 units.
This web site is the official Web site of the Wisconsin National Guard, provided as a public service by the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs Public Affairs Office. For site management, information is collected for statistical
purposes. This web site uses software programs to create summary statistics, which are used for such purposes as assessing what information is of most and least interest, determining technical design specifications, and identifying
system performance or problem areas. For site security purposes and to ensure that this service remains available to all users, this web site employs software programs to monitor network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts
to upload or change information, or otherwise cause damage.