Poverty, family values push MacDill Airman to succeed

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vernon L. Fowler Jr.
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

No television. No phone. No computer. Add in a lack of regular electricity and running water, then ask yourself “could I survive?” One MacDill Airman has lived to tell the tale and has gone on to excel.

“Coming from nothing, it [Air Force] seemed like the best opportunity for my life,” said Tech. Sgt. Evelyn Chromey, NCO in charge of personal property with the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS), when asked about her decision to join the Air Force.

The scene is Supe Pueblo, a small town just outside of Lima, Peru. A young Chromey and her family live in poverty. Her father, a former member of the Peruvian air force, migrated to the U.S. to work as a commercial aircraft mechanic.

As a result, her mother acted as sole provider for three daughters. Chromey, the youngest, remembers learning the meaning of hard work and valuing the little things from watching her mother.

 “My mom had to work different jobs to raise us,” said Chromey. “So we valued anything we could get our hands on.”

At the age of six, Chromey and her sisters left their mother to move to Miami, Florida. There, lived her father who possessed a better means of caring for his children. Despite an improved standard of living, the transition still presented obstacles. As native Spanish speakers, learning the English language posed a challenge. Coupled with a feeling of homesickness, Chromey’s sisters decided to return to the familiarity of Peru.

Living in a “foreign” environment under single-parent household, Chromey quickly learned to fend for herself. Her father, often away at work, set clear-cut rules to keep her safe. Each day she fed herself and made sure to be in the right place at the right time, further developing her discipline.

At the age of 12, Chromey’s father was sent to Africa for work. As a result, she was sent to attend military school back in Peru.

“Attending military school was the norm in Peru,” said Chromey. “I had to get used to wearing a uniform and attending formation every morning.”

Three years later, political unrest created an unstable environment. Due to a terrorist organization known as “Shining Path,” Peru was deemed too dangerous by her parents. Chromey, then 15 years old, returned to Miami to once again live with her father.

This time, however, Chromey’s father’s strict rules fueled her desire for independence. A year after high school graduation, Chromey enlisted into the U.S. Air Force.

“My father didn’t find out until I called him from basic training,” said Chromey. “Because I left the house, he thought I was being a rebel at first. Once I graduated, he was very proud that I was following in his footsteps.”

According to Chromey, the transition into the U.S. Air Force lifestyle was an easy one. Thanks to her disciplined upbringing she was already prepared. However, her time spent in Peru from age 12 to 15 reduced her ability to speak English. Not to mention, she lacked resources that many people in the U.S. receive regular access to starting in their childhood.

“Coming out of high school, I had never used a computer,” said Chromey. “Everything was done through research with books. Coming into the military, I had to learn everything from scratch; the language, how to use email, even how to type.”

Since then, Chromey has remained resilient while progressing to the rank of technical sergeant, attending various NCO academies, and becoming a valuable member of the travel management office. She currently supervises 12 Airmen and ensures the personal property of MacDill personnel is cared for as members transition to their next duty station.

“Tech. Sgt. Chromey is an essential member of her section and a vital member of the squadron,” said Senior Master Sgt. Darryl Williams, Deployment and Distribution flight chief assigned to the 6th LRS. “She leads boldly, ensuring her team knows the household goods entitlements so they can share their knowledge with permanent change of station members of Team MacDill, enabling them to have a smooth transition.”

Family, Chromey’s driving force, continues to add fuel to the furnace as she works toward the highest enlisted rank…chief master sergeant.

Looking back, Chromey doesn’t hesitate to express pride in her Air Force career and is thankful for every opportunity it has afforded her.

“I love the Air Force,” said Chromey. “This has become my entire life and I think it’s a great opportunity for most people.”