Jess Skelly

Branch: Air Force

Duty Station: Not Affiliated With a Duty Station

Number of Deployments: 1

Number of PCS's: 5

Share your military spouse story:
1. I grew up as a military brat with both my mother and father serving over 20 years each in the Air Force. I met my husband while he was in pilot training at Fort Rucker, Alabama and I had just finished college at Florida State University in 2012. We moved to his first assignment at FE Warren Air Force Base in 2013 where we enjoyed volunteering for Cheyenne Frontier Days, as well as volunteering at the squadron. We welcomed our first child there and I completed a second Bachelor's degree in Nursing. We then PCS'd to Andrews Air Force Base where my husband worked as an instructor helicopter pilot and I worked as a nurse in the NICU. During this assignment, I began my Master's, served as the Key Spouse, and we welcomed our second child. The following assignment was Fort Rucker, Alabama, where we encountered severe issues and a lack of support and protections for military children in our district and in the state as a whole. Everywhere we had previously been stationed, military families had school of choice, and were exempt from school transition if the district participated in a local rezoning. When the district ignored all pleas to keep our children together and not forcing our son to attend a different school while my husband was deployed, we spoke to several other families and learned just how horribly military children had been treated in the district, and how negatively impacted their education had been due to the district and the state's lack of policies that so many other states already have in place. This began my advocacy for legislation to be introduced in Alabama to not only hold the district and Superintendent accountable for harming so many military children educationally, emotionally, and psychologically but to also get the state to enact legislation and drive policy change to protect all military children who are stationed there in the future. We just PCS'd to Milan, Italy, but continue to advocate for military children's rights in Alabama.

Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
2. During our assignment at Andrews Air Force Base, I had the honor and privilege of serving as the 811th OSS Key Spouse. During this time I helped welcome new spouses to the squadron, celebrated the arrival of new children born to members of the squadron by organizing meal trains for new parents, and shared gratitude for outgoing spouses who were PCSing. I was able to participate in the base cookie drive for airmen in dorms, attend Heart Link with new spouses, and provided valuable resources to spouses and airmen in times of need. At Fort Rucker, Alabama, I spent years advocating for the protection of military children and their educational continuity by meeting with house representatives, congressmen, and senators, as well as communicating with the Governor and Lt. Governor of the state. I spoke on behalf of several military families who had children who were harmed during a district rezoning, including military children with special needs.

Describe your involvement in the military community:
In advocating for Alabama to better protect military children's educational continuity, I met with House Representative Rhett Marques, as well as speaking with Congressmen, Senators, the Lt. Governor, and Governor and presented several studies, data, research, and articles that proved how detrimental additional school transitions can be on children, but especially military children and those with special needs or deployed parents. I presented them with policies and legislation from several other states that already have these protections in place that would have protected our son and so many other military families who ended up with their children being traumatized from the displacement. I spoke with legislators to urge policy change as well as the school board to plead for policies to be enacted to provide stability for military children. I will continue to advocate for the protection of military children in the state of Alabama and globally and help be the voice for those families.

Describe how you support your community:
Prior to arriving in Italy, I spent my time giving back to the community by teaching CPR and First Aid to community members through the Red Cross. I also worked as a nurse in the trauma center Emergency Department prior to, during, and after the Covid pandemic. We participated in drives giving back to the community and offering community outreach and education. With current agreements in place when we arrived in Italy, I have not been working but have been spending time volunteering for lunch duty and additional events at our children's international school.

What do you advocate for? Why?
5. I advocate for military children to have protections in Alabama to ensure educational continuity and to prevent the displacement of any other military children stationed in that state. I advocate for policies to be enacted to protect our children the way so many other states have already done. In February 2021 we found out the school district rezoned our neighborhood to another school that was failing in literacy, math, and reading standards for military children and that was farther from our home. They were also charging tuition for public school to military families living in the city limits. We begged the district Superintendent to keep our children together and to not rezone our son mainly because his father was deploying at the end of March. The district denied not only our waiver request but that of ALL military children whose families had requested their children not unnecessarily be transferred to yet another school while at the same duty location.

How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
6. Military families spend months agonizing over education and school choices when they are faced with a PCS. When they purchase homes in school zones and districts specifically to ensure their child has the resources and facilities they need for their educational success, those students should not be forced in to unnecessary transitions due to local rezoning after the fact. Military children face 6 to 9 school transitions throughout their educational career due to PCS and military moves. When school districts and states are entirely unfriendly towards military children and families, our children's education, mental health, and emotional health suffers. By speaking with legislators and policy makers in the state, as well as local news stations, we started a dialogue about enacting change to protect military children. We hope to advocate on a bigger stage to bring awareness to the situation and create policy change as well as new legislation to protect military children in the future.

What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year® title?
7. I hope to have a larger platform to advocate for the rights and protections of the education of military children. Getting policies to change and getting legislation introduced in Alabama that would prevent future military children from the damage our children went through would be the best justice and accountability for our families. Knowing that the district and state could no longer harm military children and families and that their educational continuity will be prioritized through changed policies and legislation is what we ultimately hope to accomplish through our advocacy. A larger audience listening to our stories of what our children and so many other military children went through while stationed there to bring large-scale awareness to how detrimental it was would help shed light on the state and the district responsible, and hopefully encourage lawmakers to do the right thing by introducing legislation to prevent this from happening to any other military children.


Jess witness an injustice while stationed at Fort Rucker with school districts treating military kids and families unfairly. She's done a large amount of advocacy work already to try and get legislatures' attention to fix the issue. I think she'd be a great addition to the MSOY program and with networking can make real change for the military families in that area!
- by michelle p bowler