Building Bridges for South Dakotans
Brian Bengs grew up in a working-class family in a small, northern Iowa town. His father was a union machinist at a nearby factory and served in the Iowa National Guard until retiring as the First Sergeant of the local unit. His mother worked as a waitress at the town cafe when he and his brother were older. Brian’s parents instilled traditional midwestern values of hard work, honesty, and getting the job done. He put his work ethic into practice throughout high school delivering newspapers every morning and detasseling corn in the summer.
Brian entered the U.S. Navy immediately after graduation. Upon completion of his military service, he returned to Iowa to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history from Iowa State University where he met his wife of nearly 27 years. He then attended the University of Iowa Law School. After passing the bar exam, he entered the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps where he spent 19 years living and working all over the U.S. and in Japan, Germany, Kuwait, and Qatar. Brian’s two teenage daughters (college freshman in Air Force ROTC & high school sophomore) were born into the nomadic military lifestyle.
During his Air Force career, Brian took night classes to complete a master’s degree in history at Louisiana Tech University. He was also selected by the JAG Corps to attend the George Washington University Law School for an LL.M. degree (master of laws) in international law. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, NATO School Oberammergau, and the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy.
In 2016, Brian retired from the Air Force and was finally able to settle his family in one place. He and his wife selected Aberdeen, South Dakota, as the hometown for their daughters when he accepted a position as assistant professor of criminal justice at Northern State University. In fact, Aberdeen is the longest he has lived anywhere since leaving his parent’s home for the Navy. After living as a nomad for so long, he now feels very connected to Aberdeen and fellow South Dakotans. The smaller, close-knit community has made him feel part of something, like his vote, thoughts, broad experience and knowledge could really make a difference.
After studying history and law and serving in the military for most of his adult life, Brian has a keen understanding of how our government was created and has evolved over the years. His diverse experience and education also give him the perspective to see a better path for the future. Although Americans are dangerously polarized today, he continues to believe that democracy is the best and only answer to the problems our country faces. Learn more about his plans to put regular South Dakotans first here.