Beckman Shines As Motivational Speaker; Addresses Air Force 49th Tactical Fighter Wing
NORTH HILLS, Calif. (March 20, 2009) - As a longtime instructor at Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School, Jack Beckman admits he was a student himself during that time. It's where he acquired his skill as a motivational speaker. He didn't intend to, or expect to, but the time he spent educating racers in the fine art of negotiating a high-powered racing car down the quarter mile turned him into an outstanding orator. Add into the mix his experience as a cancer survivor and the ability to intellectualize ever aspect of driving a vehicle to over 300 mph in under five seconds, and you have one helluva communicator.
Beckman, whose day job is driving the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, used his skill recently to speak to the Air Force's 49h Tactical Fighter Wing at the unit's annual maintenance awards presentation at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamagardo, N.M.
"The Maintenance Squadron Commander is Major Anthony Puente," explained Beckman, a former Air Force sergeant, "and he and I served back in the 1980s together at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M. We got talking and we discovered tons of parallels between the maintenance crews and being a part of an NHRA team.
"At this event they were presenting awards to the outstanding airmen, senior NCOs and officers throughout the squadron. The entire wing of the F117 Stealth fighter was decommissioned and they're currently ramping up with the new F22 Raptor, so there's been a lot of changes there in the last year. And they're recognizing now that they've outperformed the Air Force standards in switching the aircraft and getting up to speed.
"I talked about teamwork, but also how individuals within a team can strive for excellence, which makes the whole team better, and setting standards for yourself and trying to meet and exceed those," said Beckman, who often visits hospitals and speaks to grade-school children, but says this is the first time he's spoken to this kind of group.
"Ultimately the pilot gets to go out there and fly the hot rod, but it doesn't work right if everybody on the maintenance crew hasn't done his or her job perfectly every time. It's the same within a team in NHRA drag racing.
"I talked about working with other people, my bout with cancer, and about being good at what you do and also trying to give back, which I tied into doing the hospital visits in places like Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. I feel I need to give back and to say thank you to the people who are out there sacrificing.
"But, really, the underlying reason for doing these types of activities is to show all members of the military that I appreciate what they're doing. It wrapped around so well with our own racing as well as the Mail From Home program.
"It was a very worthwhile venture," added Beckman. "What was also nice is that a lot of those who received awards came up and thanked me and I signed autograph cards for them.
"We also collected a bunch of signed Mail From Home postcards, which Mail Terminal Services will ship to the troops overseas, as they do with the thousands of cards that have been collected at the NHRA events.
"A lot of those people were so appreciative of my visit that they're going to tune in and watch NHRA drag racing now. I think it builds up a little bit of awareness of our sport as well."