Enlisted ROTC cadet brings skills to competition

By Todd Pruden | United States Military Academy at West Point | April 10, 2019

WEST POINT, N.Y. —

Green to gold may sound like a cliché for currency or wealth to some folks. In the Army, however, it is a career path, which takes commitment, tenacity and grit for the future leaders. 

For one Army Reserve Soldier competing in the annual Sandhurst Military Skills Competition here, serving in the military and the ability to continually learn new skills is something he has always wanted to do.

Cadet Austin Beck, currently an Army Reserve enlisted combat engineer with Headquarters Company, 315th Engineer Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, California, is also an ROTC cadet at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, as a civil engineering major.

“I’ve always wanted to join the military. I just wasn’t sure when I wanted to join,” Beck said. “So, I completed two quarters at school and then I wanted a different scenery, do something different because it gets tiring going to school for 20 years straight. So, I decided to join the Reserves and then I took a break, going to Basic Training for about four months, including AIT, as a combat engineer.”

Beck said going from the enlisted to officer ranks has been a beneficial transition and that he has had the full support from fellow Soldiers and leadership in his Army Reserve unit.

“They knew I was a private ... at that time and I told them what my deal was and then, I showed up with the (cadet rank), I think about a month ago, and they were pretty happy for me because they know that no matter what I do, it’s a stepping stone for a better career and my squad leader is really helpful with that,” he said. 

Capt. Dominic Senteno, assistant professor of military science at Cal Poly State University, said his ROTC program benefits from the knowledge Beck brings to the table due to his enlisted training.

“He provides that unique experience that not very many cadets have. Not all of them enlist first and then follow that track, so a lot of them will opt into a simultaneous membership program contract after already being in ROTC, and they’ll never get that Basic Training experience.” Senteno said. “They’ll never be able to get to say that they have hands-on-the-job training with a unit and Cadet Beck has that. He not only brings it to the team, he also brings it to the entire program.”

Beck said since he was already committed to his military service and to his education, the transition from green to gold was a no-brainer for him.

“All the drill sergeants told me if you have the desire and you’re getting a technical degree, the Army could use you in different aspects and, well, why not?” Beck said. “If I’m going to school anyway, why not make the transition over?”

Beck is competing with his fellow Cal Poly teammates in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition. 

Forty-nine teams representing four U.S. service academies, 13 international military academies and 16 ROTC programs will compete in the annual competition at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., from April 12-13, 2019. He said competing is a great feat for his university ROTC program, since this is the first time Cal Poly has earned a spot in the competition. He is also looking forward to the experiences he gains from being at the academy and his fellow participants.

“First, you get to meet a lot of people. That’s very important because the Army is interconnected, nationally and internationally, because you have international teams here,” he said. “Second of all, It’s good just to see what kind of challenges you’ll encounter because no matter what challenge you do, you’re going to have to push yourself a little bit beyond what you’re capable of, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen later on this week.”

Beck said the experience of competing in the Sandhurst is very beneficial and that his participation has given him a better understanding of diversity. 

“It’s just a different experience. You get to meet people from all over the world and the nation and it gives you a different perspective on life,” Beck said. “It gives you a lot of perspective on how to treat people and how to respect them.”

He went on to say that his hope is that what his team has accomplished by competing will motivate his fellow Soldiers and future leaders.

“So, now we’re here and now we’re going to see how far we can go so we can, hopefully, motivate cadets younger than us to take the torch from us and to continue and excel and to inspire other cadets and other enlistees who want to become officers in the Army.”