SHILOH, Ill. -- Friends and family gathered at Scott Air Force Base Friday - socially distancing of course – to bid a fond farewell to and celebrate the career of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s beloved historian, who retired after 36 years, one month and 12 days of federal service.
From an early age, Dr. Kent Beck had a love for history. He studied history at California State University, Fullerton, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and at University of California, Irvine, where he earned his master’s degree and PhD in history. In fact, it was his love of history that led him to meet his true love and wife of 44 years, Donna.
Beck, a teaching assistant, and the then Donna Corbett, a student in the History section, met in 1973 when she asked him a question about her final paper. The two went on their first date four months later and the rest is, as they say, history.
Whether accurately detailing the command’s move from the East Coast to the Mid-West or painstakingly recording operational events, Beck was always a consummate professional. His dedication to his craft was impressive. No matter his workload, he was always ready to go above and beyond in providing assistance to those who asked or, in some cases, those who didn’t ask.
He was a walking history book. When asked to verify dates and historical highlights, he would orally dictate the entire history of an event and later provide a detailed written record that he had distilled just that day.
Beck began in federal service in 1987, where he worked at U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command. There he covered bomber and tanker operations, including Operation RESTORE HOPE, the humanitarian and peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
He transferred to Headquarters Air Mobility Command after his position was eliminated upon the merger of Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command. There he wrote about disaster relief operations after Hurricane Andrew in Florida, Hurricane Iniki in Hawaii and Typhoon Omar in Guam. This assignment too ended due to a reduction-in-force move, but he didn’t move far.
Beck transferred to U.S. Transportation Command in 1994, where he taught Quality Management and worked customer surveys in the J4 directorate’s business center. His leaders at the time recognized his aptitude for capturing history and moved him to the J3, where he supported historical coverage of Operation ALLIED FORCE, the NATO-led bombing campaign to compel Serbia to withdraw its forces from Kosovo, and Operations NOBLE EAGLE and ENDURING FREEDOM.
Again, the DOD eliminated his position as part of a reduction-in-force in early 2003. He moved to the J3 Systems Integration Division, where he was able to retain some of his historian duties. Beck credits this assignment for making him a better action officer.
Beck came to work for SDDC in 2007 after the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission directed SDDC to consolidate at Scott AFB and co-locate with USTRANSCOM. He had his work cut out for him. His position was vacant for nearly a year before he arrived and the historian responsibilities regulation changed less than a month after taking the position.
Beck left his mark on SDDC. He had his hand in many displays and projects in both the command’s temporary building on Scott AFB and the one it calls home today. He researched and provided photos and wrote summaries of the command’s role in Vietnam, DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. He, over the course of 18 months, supported and guided several SDDC 50th Anniversary projects.
Beck captured many events that defined our rich military history. He leaves behind big shoes to fill, and his vast knowledge and dedication to his craft and his country will not be forgotten.