Thanks in large part to the National Guard’s Project ChalleNGe program, a sputtering start to Jeanie Beck’s early education won’t deter her from attaining the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Air Force — chief master sergeant.
Beck, the chief enlisted manager for 152nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Reno Air National Guard Base, Nev., is to be promoted to chief master sergeant June 25.
According to Nevada Air Guard records, Beck will become the 154th Nevada Guard Airman to attain the rank of chief master sergeant and the 13th female chief master sergeant in the organization’s history. Beck’s father is Pat Morrison, who was chief master sergeant No. 68 in the Nevada Air Guard.
Beck attributes much of her career success to Project ChalleNGe, the Nevada National Guard’s 1990s-era youth program for teenage students not on track to graduate on time from public high school.
The Nevada Guard currently sponsors a similar program, the Battle Born Youth ChalleNGe Academy, in Carlin. Today’s BBYCA enables 16- to 18-year-old students to recover lost credits and learn life and leadership skills in a structured residential environment. The second class of BBYCA students graduates June 17.
“I would not be where I’m at today if not for Project ChalleNGe,” said Beck, who plans to travel to Carlin for the BBYCA graduation ceremony. “As cheesy as it sounds, it was a turning point in my life.”
Beck passed her GED tests at Project ChalleNGe to earn her GED diploma. Since then, she has earned an Associate of Science degree in applied logistics and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in logistics operations.
Growing up, Beck enjoyed elementary and middle school and experienced academic success. But she dropped out of Carson High School during her junior year in 1997.
“I spent most of my time partying and hanging out with my friends,” Beck said. “The more time I spent not focused on school, the worse the situation became.”
Beck said her high school experience began to snowball into a seemingly hopeless situation.
“I let a few assignments slip by. Before I knew it, I was failing most of my classes,” she said. “I felt like there was no way I could get back on track. It seemed pretty hopeless.”
Beck was out of school for about one year before she decided to apply for Project ChalleNGe in 1999. At the time, Nevada did not have a program, and Nevada teens traveled to Queen Creek, Arizona, to attend the cooperative Arizona-Nevada Project ChalleNGe program.
“I was extremely nervous. Project ChalleNGe was my last resort. I felt like I had no hope for a career and was afraid I would get stuck at some dead-end job,” Beck said.
She spent her first week of the program attending pre-Challenge at the Plumb Lane Armory in Reno. The applicants had to prove they could make it in Arizona because the spots for students were limited. After the week in Reno, the Nevada Guard flew the students to Arizona to begin the five-month program.
Beck said she began to appreciate the program about two months after her arrival. Surprisingly, she discovered she enjoyed the regimented atmosphere of Project ChalleNGe.
“I found it was easy to keep my belongings orderly and figure out what the standards were,” Beck said.
Beck developed friendships in Arizona and remains in contact with many classmates.
Beck said two cadre staff, ChallenNGe instructors Nunez and Bigg, proved to be the most memorable individuals from Project ChalleNGe.
“I remember C.I. Nunez would hang a punching bag for the female students and just let us go at it,” Beck said. “Nunez understood what we needed.”
Beck said C.I. Bigg was an instructor with impossibly high standards who would punish minor mistakes – but also take the time to ask individuals how they were and genuinely listen.
“Those two instructors were impactful on my experience and showed me what I was capable of,” Beck said.