JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
A group of Airmen leap out of a C-17 Globemaster and plummet toward the earth. They deploy their parachutes to land safely and prepare to execute the perfect airstrike.
Tactical Air Control Party Airmen often perform feats like this in order to accomplish their mission on the ground, while aircraft above them deploy the strikes they call.
As a 25th Air Support Operations Squadron TACP Airman, Staff Sgt. Derek Skelton’s responsibility on the frontlines is to ensure an airstrike is called on the target at the correct time. This career field involves around seven months of physical, mental, and technical training to ensure the Airmen are battle-ready and highly skilled.
On a normal day, Skelton travels to participate in close air support training or uses a simulator to maintain his skills.
“The real fun happens when I’m out on a range and can talk to live aircraft and use live ordinance on targets,” said Skelton.
When Skelton is off duty, he dedicates spare time to working toward a special dream of his.
“My goal is to make great music that people will love and connect with, perform in front of thousands of fans, and fulfill a lifelong dream of mine which is to be a well-known recording artist,” said Skelton.
Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux, Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs photojournalist, is a good friend of Skelton and a fan of his music.
“I know Derek through my church’s small group,” said Haux.”He is an incredibly talented person and I know he’ll get far in the music industry. He’s already had two singles released which are really good!”
Following his dreams hasn’t always been easy, Skelton said. At 16, he traveled to Nashville to try out for American Idol and didn’t make it. He’s also tried out for The Voice to no avail and spoken to recording artists who have not reached back..
“Country music is a passion of mine,” said Skelton. “ I spend a lot of time working on new material like melodies on the guitar and lyrics when I’m not at work. I also do as much marketing as I can for myself to get my music heard by as many listeners as possible.”
Although Skelton faces adversity in following his dreams, he still reaches after them.
“Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying,” said Skelton. “There will be plenty of people that will tell you that you can’t do something or that the odds aren’t in your favor but don’t let that stop you from putting yourself out there.”
“Everybody should have a dream and chase that dream,” he continued.“It may not end up the way you want, but it’s worth the journey it will take you on.”