Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Capt.Dennis Lazar had the distinct honor and pleasure of announcing Staff Sergeant Margaret Kieu Nga T. Gean as this yearâ€™s recepient of the Navy League of the United States, Indian Wells Valley Councilâ€™s Archie Meyer Memorial Scholarship Award during a dinner May 8 at Victoriaâ€™s Restaurant in Ridgecrest.
Gean is assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 and attached to Marine Aviation Detachment, China Lake.
The $1,000 scholarship will aid the Marine, who is a wife and mother of four children, with continuing her education with National University, where she eventually hopes to earn her masterâ€™s degree in psychology and become a marriage and family therapist.
â€œI would love to receive this scholarship to build on my education,â€ said Gean in her application.Â â€œUtilizing Tuition Assistance is great, but not enough to continue education throughout the year.Â I have an academic plan through National University and the classes I am taking are dependent on the funding I have available via Tuition Assistance and/or scholarship funding.â€
Tuition Assistance is the Navyâ€™s educational financial assistance program.Â It provides active duty personnel funding for tuition costs taken in an off-duty status at a college, university or vocational/technical institution, whose regional or national accreditation is recognized by the Department of Education.Â There is a semester and yearly limit on how much assistance an applicant can receive.
Lazar noted that the scholarship was named for Archie Meyer, who served in the Army during World War II. Â He came to Ridgecrest in 1957 to work for a government contractor, but eventually became a Department of Defense civilian employee as a technical writer.
He noted that the Navy League was an important part of Meyerâ€™s life, even serving as the National Director for the Navy League.Â â€œUnfortunately, as too often happens to good people, his life was tragically cut short,â€ Lazar said.
Mary Lundstrom, Meyerâ€™s daughter, was at the dinner to honor her father and to support the Navy League.Â Lundstrom is a long-time Ridgecrest resident and the biggest donator to the scholarship fund.
This was the first year the IWV Council looked at active-duty military members for the scholarship instead of graduating high school students. â€œThis year we decided to support local military members who are working on their degrees,â€ said Mark Storch, president of the local council.
Applicants had to be active-duty military members with a rank of E-6 or below, submit an application stating why they should be considered for the scholarship, explain their future academic plans/educational goals, supply a typed essay (minimum 500 words) addressing a current issue related to the Navy and/or Marine Corps, and provide evidence of acceptance by an accredited college, university or technical school, as well as submitting a letter of recommendation from their command.
Gean expressed her amazement that so many people attended the dinner to see her receive the scholarship.Â â€œWe [her husband, Albert, a former Marine himself, was her escort] never experienced anything like this before,â€ she said.Â â€œThank you for all the work, the people who donated to the fund and to all the people who came out.Â People keep coming up to me and saying what an honor it is to meet me, but truthfully it is the reverse.Â It is an honor to meet you.Â Thank you.â€
Born and raised in Northern California, Gean is the second youngest of eight siblings.Â She was recruited out of Salinas, Calif. and graduated boot camp not only as Platoon Honor Graduate, but also as Company Honor Graduate, resulting in a meritorious promotion to lance corporal.
Currently serving her 10th year in the Marine Corps, Gean has broad experience in her aviation career.Â She served in multiple units, such as Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and four different tours at Camp Pendleton, Calif.Â She deployed to Al Taqadrum (TQ), Iraq from May to November 2008.
â€œGean has a diverse background that most people in the military donâ€™t get the opportunity to have,â€ said VX-9 Master Chief Gregory Carlson, who also attended the dinner.Â â€œThe spectrum of serving in an array of different type squadrons, deploying, getting different types of training and having an organizational and intermediate level background gives her the diversity to work at any tempo with a broad knowledge of how the aviation system works.â€
â€œThe success of the Navy and the defense of our nation ride on the strong backs and eager minds of our young people,â€ said NAWS Commanding Officer Capt. Dennis Lazar, â€œand the importance of continuing education cannot be overly emphasized.â€