Members In Focus: Lt. Col. Robert Rideout Relishes Roles In the Army and the Law


Robert Rideout doesn’t recall what he was listening to in the bunker during this particular rocket attack in Kandahar, in the photo above. To his right, incidentally, is fellow attorney and Deputy Director-Legal Maj. Thomas DeSplinter of Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Robert Rideout.

By Russell Rawlings

In the 1990s, Robert Rideout earned degrees from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Louisiana State University School of Law. Last year he added a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

In between, he has carved out an impressive career in public service that includes tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, a federal judgeship, and service as an Assistant Public Defender, an Assistant District Attorney, and as a Deputy Commissioner for the N.C. Industrial Commission.

Rideout is also the founding chair of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Military and Veterans Affairs Section.

And, at 45 years of age, he’s just getting started.

Lt. Col. Rideout has served in the U.S. Army Reserves since 1999 and presently serves as the Deputy Commander of the 134th LOD (Legal Operations Detachment), which essentially comprised of the military attorneys in the state. Completing his 20th year of military service in March, he’s up for the rank of full colonel in 2019.

Judge Rideout has served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration since 2010 and as Hearing
Office Chief Administrative Law Judge since 2014.

He loves his job.

“This is the only job I’ve ever had in the law where you always get to be the good guy,” Rideout said. “Either you’re awarding
benefits to someone who qualifies and desperately needs them or you’ve denied the case and have been a good steward of the
government’s money.

“That’s great!”

Up For Adventure

Rideout also loves serving in the military.

“I have always been a reservist, but I have been activated twice,” Rideout said. “The first time was with the invasion of Iraq
in 2003-04. I was serving as trial counsel starting out, but the Command Judge Advocate got sick and had to be medivacked out
of the country. So, I was the Command Judge Advocate for nine of the 12 months.

“In Afghanistan, I was with the 4th Infantry Division in Kandahar in 2013-14. I served as Command Judge Advocate
and Director of Acquisitions and Legal for U.S. Forces Garrison Command.”

In both instances, Rideout relished the opportunity to deploy, and would do so again if the opportunity presented itself.
“I am always on the volunteer list,” Rideout said. “The first time around, after 9/11, I was with the 108th Division, a training
division. We primarily ran the Army schools, so I started searching desperately for a unit that I thought would go over. I had to find a
tier one unit, so I joined the 171st Area Support Group, a unit that has no peacetime function.”

Rideout has received numerous honors for his service, including two Bronze Stars, five Meritorious Service Medals, four
Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, and the 2014 LTG Jack Calvin Stultz Jr. Award as the top field grade
officer with the 143 Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

He also graduated as a Distinguished Graduate (highest honors) from the U.S. Army War College, and in 2015 received
the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award from the UNCW Alumni Association.

Which brings up an interesting question: How in the world did you end up going to law school at LSU after earning your
bachelor’s degree in Wilmington?

“I was 21,” Rideout replies with a big laugh. “Why wouldn’t I drive a thousand miles, sight unseen, for law school? It’s the kind
of thing you do when you’re 21 years old. It was a tremendous experience … an adventure.

“They have their Civil Code in Louisiana, so I came back home I had to flush three years of law school out of my head to take the
North Carolina bar, but it was a great experience. At LSU, there were a number of times in class where the professor would say, ‘this
is how the other 49 states do it and this is the way we do it.’ ”

A Wide Range

Rideout has embraced the opportunity to provide leadership to the recently established Military & Veterans Law Section.
“It has been very rewarding,” Rideout said. “I love having the opportunity to help generate new ideas now that the Section is
completely established after being a committee.

“We essentially have two components. One is the military and veterans side of it, for individuals who are veterans, either from the
reserve component or retired active duty who subsequently came back into practice in North Carolina. And the second component
is people who work in the VA system and represent veterans in VA cases.

“We are trying to wed those two entities together, and there are a lot of things that comingle. We are also helping bridge that
gap between the military side and the individuals who may not have been in the military but are representing veterans, so they
have the same vested interest.”

Rideout urges attorneys from virtually all practice areas to consider joining the section.

“It is a tremendous opportunity,” Rideout said. “Whether you practice criminal law or family law, for instance, the truth is
if you have someone who is a prior service member, if you have someone who has VA rating, if you have someone who is retired
from the military, you will have clients who will have interests that are so distinct and so separate that it will change the way that you
approach a case.

“It is hard to find a Section that wouldn’t benefit. It is such a unique population that you’re serving, I would think that you
would want that opportunity to be in this Section, to have the ability to throw a question on our listserv, which is very active.
“Our people are very responsive.”