Hi Beverly! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I began as Beverly G. Rauser, the youngest child of six kids born on a farm/ranch outside of Toston, the sleepy suburb of Townsend, Montana. My parents were married in 1958, ages 19 and 17, and are still married today. I grew up believing that every child had to do chores in the morning and evening; summers were spent getting 4-H projects and animals ready for the fair, changing irrigation hand lines, swimming in the canal, and weeding the garden. Every spring we branded cattle; at the start of summer we had a cattle drive to move cows to summer pasture, and every fall, we drove the cattle back home. Branding and cattle drives, rain or shine, were some of the best times I remember; everyone worked hard, but there was a festive comradery in getting the work done.
My dad often told us to get our education, as it was one thing that no one could ever take from us. My oldest sister left for college when I was five years old; I don’t remember ever thinking, “If I go to college…;” it was always, “When I go to college….” My parents never told me I had to get good grades. I remember them saying, “Just do the best that you can.”
As I grew up, rather than being a kid who had to learn things the hard way, I watched and learned from my older sisters and brothers. I remember setting my first goal at the age of eight, when I saw my oldest brother graduate valedictorian of his high school class. I thought, “I can do that, too.” The next year, my oldest sister graduated from college with highest honors. I thought, “I can do that, too.” When I started law school, I decided if I could be in the top in college, I should set the same goal in law school. When I joined the Air National Guard, I saw military lawyers who were Colonels, and I decided that I would strive for that rank, too.
I met the wonderful man I call “My Beloved,” on Malmstrom Air Force Base in May of 2001. I had only seen James 3-4 times on base, and my friend and I often referred to him as “the Major who looks like a Captain.” I paid very little attention to him, as most Air Force Majors were/are married. Unbeknownst to me, James was not married and had seen me at the proverbial Officers’ Club. I recall going out to lunch one day, and seeing James at the restaurant. I happened to look over at him as he was leaving. As it turns out, he had decided that if I glanced at him as he was leaving the restaurant, he would ask me out on a date. Later that day, I came back from a staff meeting to find a card on my desk. I can still quote the words James wrote, but the best part was the post script, “P.S. References available upon request.” We had our first date on May 5, we were engaged on June 24, and we were married on October 27, 2001. We waited until October, so I would have time to sew my wedding dress, matron of honor dress, and two flower girl dresses. Tragically, 9/11 also happened, and it changed the world we lived in forever.
Before James, I really had no interest in having children, and I planned to remain active duty Air Force and promote as high as hard work would take me. My work was my baby, and I spent huge amounts of time caring for it. And then there was James. When I married James, I also “married” his children, Christopher (9) and Marissa (6); two amazing people, then and now. James opened my eyes to so many things: he brought me back to the church, where I learned how to have a relationship with God my father; he showed me the value and treasure in being a parent; and he taught me that work was a part of, but not my entire life.
Two years after we were married, our son, August, was born. I am still amazed as to how such a little being refocused my life priorities in an instant. I had another refocusing event three years later when our daughter, Zoe, was born.
Professionally, I have been in the military for 17 years, and I am blessed to serve full-time with the Montana National Guard as their State Staff Judge Advocate, allowing me a profession which combines my love of law, justice, and service to my country. On a national level, I organize, direct, and teach the “Contemporary Base Issues Course,” which is a two-day course held five times per year and instructs over 900 commanders, leaders, JAGs, and supervisors on current issues facing Air National Guard leaders.
What drew you to a career in law, and in particular, law in the military?
I wish it were a short answer. I am sure you do, too….
I began thinking of law school when I was in junior high school. I imagine my interest stemmed from an exciting television show such as L.A. Law, as well as a deep-seated desire for justice, which came from my being the youngest of six kids. When the time came to choose a major in college, I steered clear of Political Science or Criminal Justice. I thought, “What if law doesn’t work out? What am I going to do with a political science major?” Being ever practical, I knew that being a lawyer would mean running a business, so I was off to pursue an exciting degree in Business Marketing.
After receiving my BS degree (Does that make anyone else giggle, just a little? A BS degree?), I applied for law school and away I went. I had grand plans of being a corporate lawyer; I had no interested whatsoever in litigation or even seeing what the inside of a court room looked like. However, as a 1L student (clever name for first year law), I had a conversation that changed my life. A college friend of my sister, who had become a lawyer, asked about my plans. When I told him my lack of interest in litigation, he said, “How do you know you won’t like it? Have you ever given it a try?” I promptly disregarded the conversation, as any 1L student who knows their future would do.
During my spring of my 2L year, I applied for summer internships with the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office (YCAO) as well as a number of law firms. As the school year was coming to a close, I received a call from the YCAO, who offered me a position working as a prosecutor intern for the summer. While I still had no interest in the courtroom, I thought, “Well, at least I will confirm that I have no interest in the courtroom. And… it’s a job!” Literally, within an hour of having accepted the YCAO position, I was offered a summer position with the law firm that I had dreamed about for two years. As I cursed my parents for raising me to stand by my word, I thanked the firm profusely for the offer and politely told them that I had just accepted a different position.
It took one DUI jury trial, and I was a courtroom junkie. I loved all aspects of prosecuting a case: interviewing witnesses, working with law enforcement, planning evidence foundations, preparing/practicing arguments – all of it.
Bye-bye high paying corporate lawyer – hello public servant!
But wait! There is no mention of the military in this story. One of the YCAO attorneys with whom I worked had been in the Air Force. He suggested I apply to be a military attorney, or a JAG – a judge advocate general. I could still do trial work, but I would travel and see the world while serving my country.
I applied with the Air Force JAG Corps as a third-year law student. Crushingly, the answer I received at the time was, “No.”
After graduating law school, I was fortunate to become a prosecutor with the YCAO, specializing in violent crimes and crimes against women and children. I really enjoyed prosecuting, but it did take its emotional toll.
After a couple of years with the YCAO, my uncle, who was a minister in the Air Force, told me he had spoken with a JAG and given my trial experience, encouraged me to apply again. Despite the initial rejection by the Air Force, I took my uncle’s advice and applied to be a JAG. I had grown up in Montana, went to college and law school in Montana, practiced law in Montana, and well, I was done with Montana. (This is the point in the story that I know God laughs every time.) I wanted to travel and live in new places, and I thought if I can serve my country and practice law while doing so, all the better.
I applied to the Air Force JAG Corps a second time in November 1999. I had been told that if you are accepted, you receive a call giving you three choices for your first duty station. I received the call in March 2000. As I received the great news, I also was told my duty station. Notice I did not say I was given my three choices of duty station. I was told I would be going to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls, Montana. “But what about my other choices…?” I struggled to ask. “There was a special request to have you stationed at Malmstrom.” “Well,” I thought, “I still want to be a JAG, and at least I will not have to learn the military life style in a whole new location. They will move me after two years. I will still get to see the world.” (Can you hear the chuckles?)
I left for Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, to attend Commissioned Officer Training and the Judge Advocate Staff Officer Course in June of 2000. (Trust me – this all circles around and eventually answers the question.) On the first day of my JAG training, I walk into the classroom, and I see a woman, who was two years ahead of me in law school. Both of us looked at each other somewhat dumbfounded. As it turned out, she had joined the Montana Air National Guard to be one of their JAGs.
I served two years in the Malmstrom legal office, where I still got to prosecute cases. I was then asked to be the equivalent of a public defender for Airmen, or the Area Defense Counsel. The location? Malmstrom Air Force Base. Alas, no moving from Montana for this JAG. I did have the honor and privilege of representing Airmen all over the Western United States, and I got to travel a great deal.
While at Malmstrom, I met and married my Beloved. He was a Major in the Air Force stationed at Malmstrom; he was originally from Missouri, and had lived throughout the US. Shortly after we were married, James decided he would separate from Active Duty. I thought, “At last, I will get out of Montana; surely, James will want to move back to Missouri.” Nope. Our Montana had cast its spell on James, and he converted to Montananism. He will tell you the first year he lived here, he hated it. The second year he lived here it wasn’t too bad. By the third year, he would never call another place home.
As James wanted to stay in Montana, and I wanted to stay married, I knew that Montana would be my home forever. During year three of my four year active duty commitment, I received a call from my JAG school classmate (remember her from three paragraphs ago?). She said they had an opening in the MT Air National Guard legal office, and I really should apply. So, I did. As a result, without a break in service, I separated from active duty and joined the Montana Air National Guard, as one of their traditional JAGs (you know, one weekend a month, two weeks a year…). However, within a year, a full-time JAG position opened in Helena at the Joint Forces Headquarters-Montana National Guard. As James had been working full time at JFHQ-MTNG for a year, I applied for and was offered the position. I have served at the JFHQ-MTNG for 12 years, and I became the State Staff Judge Advocate (the primary legal advisor to The Adjutant General and overseeing all MT National Guard JAGs) in January 2016. In December 2016, I had the honor of promoting to the rank of Colonel.
And that, as they say, is the rest of the story.
You have such a high-stakes job which I’m sure is quite stressful at times. How do you unwind after a particularly hard day?
August’s and Zoe’s hugs and kisses are my antidote to stress. Since they were little, if I said I needed “some antidote,” they would come running. The stress might not go away, but my kiddos put the stress in its proper place – back in the office.
I also bake. A lot. The more stress I am under, the more desserts there are on my counters. My co-workers pray for stress. When he was about eight, August named my kitchen “Beverly’s Delicious Bakery.” Cupcakes anyone?
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I worked alone 80+ hours a week during my college summers selling educational books door-to-door in Kentucky. Books. Door-to-door. Kentucky. Alone. 18 years old. Dedication, perseverance, goal setting, and self-motivation have no better teacher than the bookfield. At some point during every day, I wanted to quit. I would then ask myself, “What don’t I want to do?” Answer: Knock on another door. My inner drill sergeant would say, “Successful people do things unsuccessful people don’t want to do…. Go knock on the door!”
Tell us, what makes a good leader?
Followers. One cannot lead if no one follows. A good leader imparts her vision in words and actions; people feel the excitement – they see the vision – and they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A leader lifts people up and challenges them to be more and do more than they thought they could – and they do!
What is one of your favorite quotes?
I read my favorite quote during my first summer selling books. It has shaped my entire outlook and approach to life. I later read Phil 3:13-14, and I have adopted it, too.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”
I had another favorite from my book days. One of my sales managers asked, “Do you think you are average?” I did not think much when I responded with, “Yes.” He then told me:
“Average is the top of the bottom; the bottom of the top. Average is the best of the worst and worst of the best. Do you still think you are average?”
I decided right then I would never be average.
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
Tough question to answer. I am a planner. Even when I plan not to plan I plan. If the unplanned, unscheduled, un-micromanaged, 30 minutes comes around, I read. But, truth be told, I generally even plan when I will read.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that really impacted you and why?
The Princess Bride. “As you wish” describes my marriage. “Inconceivable” often applies to my work.
Do you have a favorite author?
Shannon Messenger, Rick Riordan, J. K. Rowling . . . what am I – a 12-year-old? I so enjoy getting lost in their fantasy, alternate worlds.
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, specifically “Green Gables.” I always fancied myself a bit of an Anne-girl.
Describe one of your happiest memories.
September 28, 2007. James returned from a yearlong deployment in Baghdad, Iraq. August was three when James left; Zoe was three months. The emotions still swirl thick in my heart and mind when I think of the year without him. The day of his return, though, was true happiness. Picture a Soldier walking out of the airport security doors, hearing his 4-year-old son shouting, “Daddy,” smiles erupting on both of their faces, and the boy launching his little body into his Daddy’s arms . . . pure joy.
Tell me about a woman you admire.
My mom is a remarkable woman, mother, and community servant. From the time I can remember to when I graduated high school, my mom was on the school board, trying to effectuate change for the good. She was our club 4-H leader (along with my dad) for over 30 years. She volunteered at our church and has always been active in Eastern Star. My mom has a servant’s heart and showed by her actions the importance of giving of our time to help others. She gave me a great gift in teaching me to love sewing and baking. Mom has never liked to be in the limelight, and she is able to keep her temper better than anyone I know. (It could be that after six kids, she is immune to … a lot). I try to emulate her giving and patience and peacefulness. Try is the key word in the sentence.
How would your friends describe you?
I received a “chalkboard” mug from a friend/co-worker. On it she wrote: “Professional, genuine, awesome, patient, trustworthy, compassionate, true mentor, hilarious, accommodating, kind, insightful, fair, strong, loved & respected by all, #sharp, absolutely fabulous.” I want to live up to that person she believes me to be.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to your 20-yr-old self?
You have a great work ethic which will serve you well. Be a kind and decent person. Take time to relax and build friendships.
Coffee or tea?
I enjoy both, with the caveat that true coffee aficionados would say I like milk with a hint of espresso flavoring.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Yes. Both have their place in our beautiful world.
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. I can instruct a room of 200 military leaders and be witty and lively. Put me one-on-one, and I can’t get beyond, “How are you?” without a struggle. The irony is not lost on me.
Rural or urban?
Rural. I tried to be urban, I really did, ….
Dress up or dress down?
Down. People can say to my kids, “Your mama wears combat boots,” and they will respond with pride, “Yes – she does!” I do like to wear “girl clothes” on occasion.
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. Two Corgis and one Giant Schnauzer. Don’t ask.
Sunrise or sunset?
The promise of the sunrise, and the peace of a sunset.
Detailed or abstract?
Seriously? I am in the law and the military. Detailed.
Classic or modern?
Call or text?
Favorite meme: Ask yourself before you dial – is this something that I can text?
Fiction or non-fiction?
Salty or Sweet?
Sweet x 10. What can I say – I bake!
What do you love most about Montana?
The space, the freedom, the sky, the mountains, and the people. I spent a year working in Washington D.C. I could only see a sunrise or sunset slightly through the trees or for about 5 seconds as I drove over major interchanges. I love our big expanses of space, and the freedom of movement it allows. I love seeing our entire sky and the mountains – horizon to horizon – every day. Finally, I love Montanans. I love that we care about people, and we are kind people who just want to live our lives in the privacy and freedom Montana allows.
What is a lesson you are currently learning?
White space or margin. Family, career, and volunteer work all make for very little margin. I am learning the “No” word, but there are just so many great things to do!
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
God, family, country.
I worship the God of all creation. My life has His handiwork woven throughout; there are no coincidences – only God. I am blessed to serve a country that I love, and I will defend our Constitution with my life. On days when the sun is shining, and my family is by my side, I feel peace and happiness in my soul.