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Governor names Sieben acting general

Gov. Tim Pawlenty named a Hastings resident as Minnesota's top-ranking officer Monday.

Brig. Gen. Harry Sieben, a lifelong Hastings resident, was asked to step in as acting adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard after Maj. Gen. Eugene Andreotti resigned last month amid a flush of controversy.

"It's a great honor," Sieben said Monday. "I'm happy to do it."

Sieben has served as assistant adjutant general for five years under Andreotti.

With 35 years of military service, he wants to use this opportunity to ensure continuity during a sensitive time for the Armed Forces.

"I want to make sure we send the right people to do what the country needs and bring them home safely," he said. "I'll do everything I can to ensure that."

His former commander is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the governor's office. Last week, Andreotti was granted a court injunction to keep the nature of the investigation sealed.

Despite the back-and-forth between Pawlenty's office and Andreotti, Sieben was not hesitant to take the job.

"When the governor called and asked me, I thought about it for 3 seconds and said, 'Yes, sir.'"

Work began almost immediately for the new commander.

On Tuesday, Sieben and Pawlenty traveled to New Ulm to send 500 troops to Europe.

"They're going to help in the war effort," Sieben said.

Sieben said the new position, although only temporary, will require a lot more work. Currently, he logs about 100 days a year, but now he will work full time until Pawlenty picks a new general.

But while he has the job, which could last up to four months, he will be in charge of mainly personnel training, equipment and management.

"There are 12,500 men and women in the Minnesota Air National Guard, and there are always issues," he said. "The safety of our troops is uppermost in my mind."

Right now, the Minnesota National Guard has troops deployed to Iraq, Bosnia and, this fall, Kosovo.

And while Sieben said he is happy to be the interim general, he will likely not be asked to stay on indefinitely.

"I don't think I'll be chosen for this," Sieben said. "The governor asked me to do this until he decides what to do."

Sieben will retire from the military in September at age 60.

"This is my last swan song," he said. "I'll stay until I have to leave."