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NEWS | May 28, 2024

Building Renaming Ceremony Honors CW5 (Ret.) Joe Wilkins

By Spc. Georgia Napier, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 Retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joe Wilkins was honored with a renaming ceremony recognizing his remarkable 52 years of service, both in and out of uniform. On May 20, 2024, families and friends of Wilkins gathered at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Kentucky, as the Garrison Training Command headquarters building was officially named the "CW5 Joe N. Wilkins Building."

“Dad loved being part of the Guard and supporting the Guard. That’s what he lived to do,” said Brent Wilkins, son of Joe Wilkins. “From the time he joined in 1960 until he retired in 2012, he lived the Guard. He supported the Guard.”

Wilkins enlisted in the Kentucky Army National Guard as a heavy weapons infantryman. Throughout his career, he served not only as a traditional guardsman but also as a full-time military federal technician and an active guard reserve Soldier. Wilkins retired from the Guard in 2002, having dedicated over 41 years to military service.

Wilkins holds the distinction of being the last serving member of the Kentucky Army National Guard mobilized for federal active duty during the Berlin Crisis. In 1974, as a full-time military technician, he transferred to the Western Kentucky Training Site in Greenville, which was then 1,000 acres. Over the years, Wilkins played a pivotal role in expanding the training area into the now 11,320-acre Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. 

“The strength of the Guard these days, the men and women we’ve got in the Guard, it’s because of the efforts of your husband -- your all’s dad. He’s one of the primary movers that enabled us to grow into what we are today,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Haldane (Hal) B. Lamberton, the adjutant general of the Kentucky National Guard.

Even after his retirement, Wilkins continued to serve the Guard. He was instrumental in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort, serving on the board of directors from 2014 until his passing.

“In the Kentucky Guard today, we have 52 installations. Of those 52 installations, we have 234 buildings. Over the decades, the Guard has named only 11 buildings after individuals. All that time, all those buildings, only 11 people have their names on a training facility or a building. From my perspective, that marks that person and their efforts and their service to the Kentucky National Guard,” said Lamberton.

Wilkins received multiple military and civilian awards, with his final honors being the Legion of Merit and the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal.
Wilkins’ legacy is carried on by his three children and his grandson, all of whom were members of the military.

“I loved Brent, Kevin, and Susan because they grew up here, they knew this facility. I wouldn’t expect anything different from them than to follow in their dad’s footsteps,” said retired State Command Sgt. Maj. Greg Armstrong. 

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