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Loadmaster to compete in Miss Mississippi

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A. C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

An 815th Airlift Squadron loadmaster was crowned Miss New South in the Miss Meridian pageant in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Oct. 22, qualifying her to compete in Miss Mississippi June 2-8, 2024.

If successful there, Senior Airman Baylee Beightol, a Hattiesburg, Mississippi native, would qualify to compete in Miss America. 

“I can’t believe it; I’m still processing it all as it doesn’t feel real,” said Beightol. “This was a great experience, and it provided me the opportunity to showcase what I do for my country in the military.”

This was Beightol’s first competition. The 21-year-old joined the Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing in February 2020 and worked in maintenance prior to completing loadmaster training in June 2023.

“I’ve wanted to join the military and to fly since I was a child; the Lord opened one door and another and I ended up here,” said Beightol, who is pursuing her degree through the American Military University online to achieve her goal of becoming a pilot.

As a loadmaster, she is responsible for properly loading, securing, and escorting cargo and passengers. They ensure everything and everyone is safe and secure for the flight.

“Senior Airman Beightol is a bright individual who exemplifies personal fitness and is a solid contributor to the 815th Airlift Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Scott Hendrix, 815th AS commander. “In addition to her support of squadron programs and facilities, Senior Airman Beightol conducts critical loadmaster duties that enable the movement of passengers and cargo across the globe.  She maintains a rapid-mobility status and is ready to support operational missions on short-notice.  We’re delighted to have her on the Flying Jennies’ team and look forward to her years of service as a Citizen Airman.”

While Beightol said she enjoys being part of the 815th AS and her job, working in the predominantly male career field is what led her to compete in the scholarship competition.

“Working as a female in the field that I do, I wanted to make more female friends; I wanted to connect, and the Miss America organization offered me that,” she said. “Also, it’s a challenge. This was something unknown to me, it’s uncomfortable. I think if you are not challenging yourself, you are not doing something right. So here I am, I’m going to Miss Mississippi.”

As part of the competition, Beightol conducted a 10-minute interview with the judges, answered an onstage question, and as her talent, she presented a monologue about a close friend in the U.S. Marines who passed away in 2022 in a car accident.

There are also evening gown and fitness portions to the event. In 2018, the Miss America organization announced they retired the swimsuit competition, and replaced it with fitness. According to Beightol, the Miss America organization made the change to share an accurate portrayal of women and focus on leadership and social impact initiatives. She said the fitness part is about 30 seconds where contestants provide three poses, which she did in fitness gear.

As part of her community service initiative, Beightol started her own volunteer organization this summer, “More than a Mistake,” which supports the reintegration of inmates.

“We are committed to providing hope, advocacy and resources to inmates during the reintegration process,” said Beightol, adding that it’s a challenge for recently released inmates to find employment and acclimate to society outside of prison.

It’s a cause Beightol said she is passionate about because her mother was incarcerated for four years in federal prison for a drunk driving accident.

“My mother was in prison for most of my childhood,” she said. “She reintegrated very successfully, and that’s not a very common story. By the grace of God my mom is where she is today, and I want to ensure every inmate can do the same things my mom did.”

Until next year’s Miss Mississippi competition, Beightol will continue her schooling, Air Force Reserve duties, and community service initiative. In all, regardless of what happens next year, she said it’s a win-win experience.

“This program brings a sense of empowerment to all the women involved,” she said. “The community is extremely uplifting. It’s rewarding to see women from all walks of life come together and better their community.”