Journey From Clueless Airman To Command Chief
by U.S. Air Force Airman Zoe Perkins
December 16, 2019
Chief Master Sgt. Hope L. Skibitsky, now the command chief of the
27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico,
has had an incredible journey, from leaving for the military at 17
with nothing to her name, to becoming a command chief.
March 9, 2018 - U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Hope L. Skibitsky leads an all-female military training instructor formation to honor Women’s History Month during a Basic Military Training graduation at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ismael Ortega)
“I have been privileged to have what I consider a great life,”
said Skibitsky. “But when you stop to think about life in general,
you don't know any different than your own.”
Growing up in a
poor, abusive household, Skibitsky and her five siblings made the
most of their situation until they could do better for themselves.
“We were very poor, but didn’t know we were poor until people
told us,” said Skibitsky.
Going to school was very important
growing up, said Skibitsky. “Mainly because the greatest examples of
adults and parenting and leadership I saw were my teachers. We also
got free breakfast and lunch at school, which was a huge deal for
She wasn't really interested in the academic portion of
school but went every day. “School was the place that took care of
Leaving home at an early age, Skibitsky managed to get
by until she graduated high school by staying with friends and
moving from place to place.
“I was fending for myself trying
to figure out where I was going to be,” said Skibitsky. “Eventually
I moved in with a preacher’s family, the Halls, and they were
absolutely incredible. They offered me room and board to guarantee I
was going to graduate high school.”
The Halls invested their
time in her and took care of her until she graduated. Then it was
time to figure out what was next.
“I didn’t think college
was an option for me. I didn’t have the money,” said Skibitsky. “So
I thought to myself, ‘What about the military?”
retired from the Air Force when she was very young. “I didn’t know
that much about it, but I knew it was an option,” said Skibitsky.
The family she was living with thought it was a great idea. They
helped her look into it and drove her to the nearest recruiting
office to see about joining.
“I don’t remember much of the
conversation I had with the recruiter other than asking, ‘When can I
go?’” said Skibitsky. She was only 17 at the time, so the preacher
signed the paperwork as her guardian. “The next thing I knew I was
in the Delayed Enlistment Program.”
Not long after that, the
recruiter scheduled her for the military entrance processing
station, and she left for Air Force basic military training.
“I couldn’t have been a more clueless Airman when I arrived,” said
Skibitsky. “I had no idea what my job was, or really anything about
the Air Force for that matter. I just knew I wanted to do it and
Skibitsky entered basic training without a
guaranteed career field and was offered a job as a medic. She
accepted and completed her technical training.
“Being a medic
was absolutely amazing,” said Skibitsky. “I had so many options and
opportunities from working in labor and delivery, education and
training and even working in an intensive care unit where we worked
in the emergency room and performed ambulance runs.”
assigned to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Skibitsky was the
NCO in charge of the health and wellness center. After that, she
went to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to be a military training
instructor for several years.
Then it was back into the
medical field where Skibitsky worked in labor and delivery, family
health and pediatrics. “I even deployed a couple of times,” she
She added diversity to her job when she became a career
assistance advisor for several years, and then served as a squadron
superintendent in a medical treatment facility.
assignment sent me back to Lackland Air Force Base to be the Chief
of Basic Military Training, which was an incredible opportunity,”
said Skibitsky. While there, she was offered the position of command
chief at Cannon Air Force Base.
“I never once looked up to
see what the next step was,” said Skibitsky. “I was just trying
really hard to be good at whatever position I was currently in.”
Skibitsky assumed her current position as command chief at
Cannon Air Force Base in August 2018.
“The Air Force has been
such a privilege for me,” said Skibitsky. “All the things I’ve
learned, all the opportunities I’ve had, all the people I’ve met,
all the experiences I’ve garnered. I could never have done any of
this without the Air Force.”
Author's Note: I met Chief Skibitsky the first time 16 months ago
during basic military training. I heard her clicking footsteps
approaching my flight to give us some much needed correction in an
uncomfortably loud way. Seeing her stripes, even as a trainee, I
knew a huge amount of dedication and hard work went into earning
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