Embracing Challenges and Change
One of the worst things for me going through my career was that there were very few male role models that I aspired to be like – in fact, it wasn’t until I was in the AF for 10 ½ years that I saw someone who I “wanted to be” when I grew up. Additionally, there were almost no females in the fighter world to reach out to for advice and, at that time, social media did not exist; so just being aware of who they were and how to get ahold of them was near impossible. I was the first mother to go through training for fighters, so there truly was no other mom I could ask advice of. My thought processes and where I was in life were much different from nearly all of my male peers.
The work part was fairly straightforward; jets don’t care if you are male or female, so anyone with the intelligence level and physical fitness characteristics to be successful could be. However, dealing with the social and interpersonal dynamics is the area in which minorities will face the most difficulties. Being in this category, the same was true for me. Many of these difficulties are due to internal biases, blind spots, and beliefs people hold based on different cultural upbringings.
As challenging as those situations were, they didn’t compare to the challenges I experienced when my health started to decline. Facing a medical community that overwhelmingly believed that when they didn’t have an answer, the problem was “all in your head,” was excruciatingly difficult. As a result, I was left to suffer in pain for almost a decade. After years of persistence within the walls of the military and conventional allopathic medical system, and no progress, I “woke up” and was forced to go “off-roading.” Fortunately, I was blessed to have the financial means to be able to do so and was able to get to the root causes.
In addition to my diverse experience within the professional realm, I share real life lessons from divorce and mediation, adoption proceedings, custody disputes, being the lone female in a male organization, years of physical dysfunction and cognitive dysfunction due to undiagnosed tick-borne diseases. It is my goal to share what I have learned with others so they can also take control of their own health and achieve wellness.
I am bringing you an example of grit, perseverance, hard work, dedication, and a “never give up” attitude. I am sharing so young women will have a voice to look up to, hear, and learn from. I am speaking because I have learned so much that is applicable to people across all walks of life. I want to encourage others to find their best self so they can make changes they know they should but haven’t been able to. I want to inspire others to find their passion, follow their dreams, and encourage them to live life to the fullest!
Having the desire to fly fighter jets since seeing the movie “Top Gun,” Chandra Beckman became part of the elite group of women who have flown United States Air Force fighter jets.
Chandra started her AF career in ROTC in 1993, the same year the Department of Defense lifted the ban on women flying combat missions, which opened the door for women to fly fighter jets. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Arizona State University in 1998. After a delay due to an unexpected pregnancy, she attended USAF Pilot Training. She graduated near the top of her class and earned the “Outstanding Leadership Award.” Chandra received an assignment to fly the F-15C Eagle and was the first women to fly that aircraft as a mother. During her time flying the F-15C, Chandra supported the defense of the homeland through Operation NOBLE EAGLE and flew combat missions during the opening weeks of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Following 3 years flying the F-15C, she was one of only 3 women assigned to fly the first stealth fighter aircraft, F-117A Nighthawk. During her time flying that aircraft, she deployed in support of security operations to the Korean peninsula, coordinated with media groups to showcase the final F-117 RED FLAG, and mentored school children and Airmen of all ranks.
Taking a break from flying, Chandra was stationed in the Republic of Korea where she was assigned to the Combined Air Operations Center. While there she developed and implemented the first Operations Center training program for new personnel and worked jobs in both offensive and defensive combat training roles. Chandra then went on to be an Instructor Pilot at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program. However, health challenges that had begun while she was stationed in the Republic of Korea finally grounded her from flying.
From 2009-2017, she earned a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Science and held multiple jobs. She served as the Director of Staff for the 82 Training Wing, an organization with a permanent staff of over 3,000 people worldwide and serving a student population of almost 80,000 annually. She also served as the Director of Operations for RED FLAG, the organization responsible for training US and coalition nation members in the world’s most realistic air combat scenarios. Chandra also served as the Wing Inspector General, where she was responsible for evaluating organizational compliance, readiness and effectiveness.
Retired from active duty, Chandra now enjoys having the freedom to travel the world with her husband and be available for her children whenever and wherever they need her to be.