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By Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published June 10 2010

War experience fueled Shellito’s career

ST. PAUL – Larry Shellito returned from Vietnam in the early 1970s to a country that did not welcome soldiers.

That experience led to his promotion of what he calls “the nation-leading Yellow Ribbon program.”

Shellito looked back on his military career Wednesday as he announced he would leave the adjutant general post on Oct. 31 after seven years as head of the Minnesota National Guard.

He made it clear that the Yellow Ribbon program to ease soldiers’ and airmen’s return to the United States was a highlight of his 37-year National Guard career.

“Things that were imprinted on my mind (after Vietnam) are still there,” said the Moorhead High School graduate.

The Yellow Ribbon program is the foundation for a national program for Guard and Reserve members returning from overseas duty.

Shellito assumed his adjutant general duties on Nov. 3, 2003. During his tenure, about 18,000 Guard members were sent overseas, the Minnesota National Guard’s largest post-World War II deployment.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty called Shellito “one of the greatest public servants we have ever seen.”

The governor pointed out that while Shellito was in charge the Minnesota Guard served in Iraq longer than any other military unit. The state Guard also was given command over Guard, Reserve and active military units, unusual for a Guard unit.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Minnesotans should be proud of Shellito and the operation he commands.

“Gen. Shellito has led the Minnesota National Guard through a time of unprecedented challenges, with Minnesota Guard members deployed throughout the world, including in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. “With his leadership, he has shown the nation that we have one of the premier National Guard organizations in the country.”

Shellito reaches retirement age of 65 in August. He has not decided what he will do next but said there have been offers.

Before taking his current job, he was president of Alexandria Technical College.

Shellito’s military experience extends back to when he enlisted in the Army in 1968. He was commissioned a second lieutenant the next year and in 1970 went to Vietnam as a senior adviser.

He said his goal when he became a Minnesota Army National Guard member in 1973 was to command the Moorhead Guard unit. That was one of his early commands.

Shellito became a brigadier general in 1997.

The general and his wife, Evonne, have been married 32 years. They have two grown daughters and two grandsons.

He received a bachelor’s degree at Moorhead State University in 1972, and seven years later earned a master’s degree there in business education. After attending military colleges, he earned an education doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1998.

Pawlenty said a committee headed by retired Gen. H. Steven Blum, who led the nation’s National Guard for five years, will begin a search for a new adjutant general.

Pawlenty said he will look for a seasoned, experienced Guard member who has served overseas, likely in combat. He will appoint the next adjutant general to a seven-year term in August.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.