By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 12, 2003
[Staff photo by Steve Jusseaume]
QUANTICO, VA. - A Hampton woman was commissioned second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps last week, one of 22 females chosen in an Officer Candidate School class of 192.
In doing so, Jacqueline Bean Kepner is continuing a family tradition of military service that includes her father and grandfather. A cousin is a member of the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. force that located and killed Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, in July.
Kepner, 25, received her commission during a ceremony Friday in Little Hall on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico. Va. A recent graduate of Syracuse University, Kepner is the daughter of Phil Bean and Debbie Anthony.
She is married to Rob Kepner of Exeter.
Phil Bean, also a Marine, runs Bean Insurance in Hampton and owns an impressive record of military service, including a tour of duty last year in connection with the war in Iraq.
Bean's nephew, Pfc. Iain Bean, the son of Richard Bean of Bethel, Maine, is a radio operator with the 101st Airborne, and took part in the gunfight last month that ended in the deaths of the two Hussein sons.
Bean praised the accomplishments of his daughter.
"Everything she does she excels at. She's an amazing kid. The Marine Corps is lucky to have her," Bean said of his daughter, who was an outstanding high school athlete at Gov. Dummer Academy before graduating from Syracuse with a degree in biology.
"Jackie always had a very competitive spirit, she always went beyond what was expected of her. She's got so much drive, but she's so unassuming," her mother said.
A total of 281 candidates began the training. Eighty-nine candidates dropped out before completing the 10-week program.
Besides the training, which Kepner described as grueling and "very competitive," the toughest part of the program was "being away from Rob and my family, and staying motivated when you're told everything you do is wrong.
"The first few days were mostly administrative, getting medicals. Then we were introduced to the staff and it turned into holy hell," Kepner said. "They came into the room and started screaming at us, in-your-face stuff."
She said the men and women were mostly integrated during daily training, though slept in separate quarters within the same barracks.
"I was surprised the training was so hard, but I found I actually enjoyed it most of the time. All the females in the class were very supportive to each other. With the men, it was more competitive," she said, noting that she always thought she could survive the training, and did not think of dropping out.
"I never wanted to quit, but at one time if someone gave me an easy out, I might have thought about taking it."
Husband Rob, who is 27, is a 1994 graduate of Exeter Area High School. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in February 2002, attended boot camp at Parris Island and recently finished training at the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
"I was a cook at the Weathervane Restaurant and Jackie was a waitress when we met. We were married in May and the very next day I had to leave for North Carolina," he said, suddenly laughing at the thought that he might have to salute his wife since she's an officer now.
While Rob Kepner has applied for Officer Candidate School and is waiting to hear, the couple is looking for an apartment in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C., since Jackie starts graduate school at Georgetown University in two weeks.
She intends to study law at Georgetown, then parlay that with her Marine Corps training in the international law field.
Following Friday's commissioning ceremony, the family relaxed at the Command Post Pub in downtown Quantico. Asked what she'll be doing in 10 years, Kepner replied, "I'll have graduated from law school, I'll get some experience in law, and use my law degree and Marine Corps experience in the military justice field, I hope."
The couple planned on driving back to New Hampshire before settling in the Washington, D.C., area later this month.
"The last 10 weeks has been exhausting, and I'm glad it's over. But I'm so close to (graduation) still, I haven't really had time to process it all," Kepner said.
"But right now I could use three good days of sleep."