More than 30 years after enlisting in the U.S. Army as a way to earn college benefits, Illinois Army National Guard (ILARNG) Col. Melissa Beauman, of Glenarm, Illinois, the U.S. Property and Fiscal Officer for Illinois, will retire Dec. 31.
“It’s been a great and very rewarding career,” Beauman said. “I wouldn’t go back and change anything about it.”
Beauman will step down as the USPFO of Illinois Oct. 1 when Col. Brian Creech, of Petersburg, Illinois, assumes duties as the USPFO of Illinois. Beauman will transfer to a temporary position until her retirement at the end of the year.
“I have always said I would retire after my term as the USPFO ends,” she said.
After graduating from high school in 1988, Beauman enlisted in the U.S. Army as a supply clerk, serving four years on active duty, including a deployment in 1991 during Desert Storm with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. Following her active service, Beauman joined the Illinois Army National Guard as a traditional Guardsman.
“After I got out of the Army, I attended college fulltime for a couple of years before being hired for a federal technician position in 1995,” she said. “In 2001, I accepted an Active Guard and Reserve position.”
In 1997, Beauman was commissioned as an ordnance officer through the Illinois Army National Guard Officer Candidate School.
“I chose ordnance because I wanted to be within the logistics field and in the maintenance company,” said Beauman.
During her service in the ILARNG, Beauman has served in a variety of command and staff positions, including, 65th Transportation Battalion Personnel Officer, Inspector General Chief of Investigations, 1144th Transportation Battalion Executive Officer, 65th Troop Command Officer in Charge, Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, and Deputy USPFO.
While Beauman has achieved much in her 32 year career, she challenges herself to learn at least one new piece of information in each position she’s held.
“I have always strived to learn something new in each position I’ve held,” she said. “I don’t place any one achievement above the others, but I do try to gain more knowledge with each assignment.”
Maj. Gen. Mark Jackson, of Frankfort, Illinois, Deputy Commanding General – Operations, First Army, who met Beauman in 2009 when he became the Commander of the 65th TC, describes her as a great leader who is always seeking knowledge.
“When Colonel Beauman became the 65th’s Officer in Charge, she was eager to learn her duties,” Jackson said. “She is a great leader who inspires and motivates Soldiers to be their best.”
Jackson said during that time, the Illinois National Guard stood up Joint Task Force – South, a joint mission between the 65th and the 183rd Wing in Springfield that focused on domestic operations. The units worked three missions together – the 2009 winter storm, the G-8 meeting and the NATO Summit.
The two most recently worked together when Jackson served as the Director of the Joint Staff and was activated in early 2020 for the state’s COVID-19 response operations.
“I worked with her during the state’s COVID-19 response operations as the director of the Joint Staff,” he said. “She is a consummate professional.”
Fellow-USPFO, Col. Terry Ommen, of South Dakota, first met Beauman at a contracting workshop conducted at the National Postal Services Training Center in Norman, Oklahoma in 2016. He said Beauman is highly respected throughout the USPFO community.
“She has served as the Chair of the Installation Logistics Advisory Committee and also the USPFO Liaison to the Executive Advisory Group for Logistics Excellence Committee,” Ommen said. “Colonel Beauman has been instrumental in working through and resolving a number of issues relevant to the USPFO community.”
Ommen said during her tenure as the USPFO of Illinois, Beauman served on the USPFO Education Committee as one of the leads for planning and conducting the USPFO Logistics Course, which provides new USPFOs with an understanding of critical topics, areas of responsibility, related to both Army and Air National Guard Logistic Programs.
“Colonel Beauman is a highly effective USPFO. She is competent, caring, and leads by example,” Ommen said. “She is a professional who takes great pride in her service to country and state.”
Beauman said her entire life since graduating from high school has centered on the military and has made her the person she is today.
“Everything in my life has been shaped by the military. Everything I’ve done since high school has centered around the military,” she said. “Everything I am is the military and after three decades in uniform, the military has significantly shaped my life.”
Beauman said service members join the military for a variety of reasons. She offered advice for anyone who is looking to make the military a career.
“Look beyond today,” she said. “You have to understand where everything fits together. The military is a great career choice. It offers good benefits and is a good way to support a family. The military itself is a family and you will be surrounded by people who support you and have your back.”
Spending 32 years in a career – civilian or military – one will have a laundry list of things they will miss most. Beauman says she’ll miss the people she works with and the camaraderie of her fellow Soldiers.
“You make lifelong friendships and bonds with those you’ve served and have shared experiences with,” she explained. “That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Beauman says she’ll also miss the network of her fellow USPFOs.
“The USPFOs are one of the best teams I’ve worked with,” she said. “Being one of only 54 USPFOs, we are a tightknit group. No matter how small or insignificant your question is, you can always reach out to any one of them and someone will have an answer for you.”
One of Beauman’s most memorable experiences of her career include her promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2010, marking the first time her parents, husband and two sons were all able to attend a ceremony.
“It was great having my parents, husband and our two sons, able to attend,” she said.
Beauman said the most memorable experience in her career happened when the 1144th Transportation Battalion returned from deployment in 2008. The unit was returning from a yearlong deployment to Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Soldiers were riding into Delevan, Illinois, on firetrucks and the community lined the streets to welcome the troops home.
“My entire family was there,” she said. “My mom made bright yellow sweatshirts for everyone and there they were, all lined up along the street as we pulled into town. It made for a great homecoming.”
Beside Beauman along the journey has been her husband of 23 years and their two sons. Beauman said family support has been the catalyst driving her career.
“If my husband, Frank, and our two sons, Nathaniel and Matthew, didn’t support my military career, I would not be retiring,” she said. “I couldn’t have stayed as a career without their support. I would have gotten out a long time ago.”
Beauman said her military service impacted her family in some ways, but says her service also brought more structure in their lives as a result.
“I’ve missed events, birthdays and anniversaries because of my military service. I’ve deployed and traveled in positions I’ve held,” she said. “However, my husband was a stay-at-home dad and he provided that constant support so there wouldn’t be as great an impact as a result of my service.”
When one chapter closes, another one begins.
“The only thing on my list right now is retirement,” she said. “Our youngest son is still in high school, so we’ll wait to make future plans until he’s in college. One thing we plan to do down the road is to move to somewhere warmer.”
Ommen said he will miss Beauman’s leadership in the USPFO community.
“I've had the opportunity to work with a number of leaders, both enlisted and officers over my 40 year military career. Colonel Beauman is one of the best officers I've had an opportunity to work with,” Ommen said. “I wish Colonel Beauman the best as she retires from the military. She's a friend and I'll miss not having her as someone I can reach out to discuss a multitude of issues.”