From the Fall 2011 Oregon Stater
By Ann Kinkley
The new director of strategic capabilities policy for the National Security Council at the White House grew up far from Washington D.C. in the tiny community of Jordan, located in the scenic Cascade foothills east of Corvallis.
Brigadier General Julie Bentz, who in June was named the first female general officer from the Oregon Army National Guard, may have taken a long, winding road to where she is, but those in the know are impressed by the speed with which she arrived.
Bentz studied nuclear engineering at OSU, graduating in 1986 with a BA and BS in radiological health from the College of Science. “My parents were split as to which was the ‘better’ degree,” she notes.
“OSU was an incredible growing experience, coming from a small community and learning how to integrate into a much larger organization,” she recalls. She also credits liberal arts courses as well as ROTC and the Catholic Newman Center as sources of great support during her college years.
Bentz chose OSU out of the more than 200 colleges that would have honored her national ROTC scholarship.
“My older brothers and sisters went to small private schools but I liked that OSU was close, and my parents were always hoping that someone would go to our home school,” Bentz said. “They wanted to go to tailgate parties!”
After graduating and accepting her commission she was stationed Landstuhl, Germany, as a nuclear medicine science officer and then in San Antonio, Texas, as a nuclear, biological and chemical combat developer. There she trained medical forces during the first Gulf War.
She then took a somewhat unusual turn on the road to becoming a general. She became a missionary.
For four years Bentz worked with a Catholic evangelization team, “traipsing around Europe and Africa.” As a reserve officer she reported for duty one weekend a month. “The pay I received from my service time was enough to pay for my missionary lifestyle,” she says.
The Army was looking for health physicists, so Bentz returned to her studies, receiving a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is also a graduate of the National War College with a master’s degree in national security strategy.
In the past 10 years she has worked at the Pentagon during the 9/11 attack; received a Legion of Merit medal for her work on the Homeland Security Council and recently helped coordinate the U.S. response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan for President Barack Obama.
At her promotion ceremony, John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, spoke of Bentz’ ability to bring together diverse groups to build consensus, and of her skill in creating technical guidelines for domestic responses to nuclear and radiological threats.
“The U.S. military follows a code of conduct that reflects my upbringing,” Bentz said in an interview before the ceremony.
“The core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage were instilled in me and my siblings at a very young age by our parents.”
At the ceremony, she thanked her husband, Brendan Plapp, and family and friends for supporting her as she serves her country. The new brigadier general referred to her upbringing and goals for future service as she was handed her father’s Bible, which was used for her swearing in as a general.
“This book is worn out and well used.” she said. “It is a good representation of what I hope for my life as I serve my country.”