Command chief focused on mission, careers of Airmen

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
Hanscom Command Chief Master Sgt. Patricia Hickey appreciates the opportunity a mentor can have on changing the course of an Airmen's career.

Hanscom's newest chief attributes her success to early mentors and experiences as a reason for where she is today.


When asked about early mentors, the chief highlighted the usual former commanders, supervisors and others who helped guide her through the early years of her career. But it was a former neighbor, albeit an Air Force icon, who has been one of the most influential.

"Retired Chief Gaylor [fifth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Robert Gaylor] was my neighbor and a tremendous mentor to me," she said. Hickey lived next to the former CMSAF off base when she was assigned to Cryptologic Systems Group. "I spent many times talking to him and his wife about my career and mentoring took place nearly every time we talked, which was often."

Noting that Gaylor sent a congratulatory note to her after it was announced she was selected to be a command chief, she added: "He's still mentoring me."

Hickey also has another mentor always nearby to help navigate her assignment as a first-time command chief.

"My husband [retired Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Hickey] is a former command chief and obviously someone I have tremendous trust in," she said. "I know that when I am faced with a difficult decision, he will offer me advice that will ultimately make me a stronger command chief for Hanscom's enlisted force."

But she was quick to point out that she's her own chief.

"The Air Force didn't promote me to this position to be like someone else; obviously they like something that I'm doing," she said. "And I am not going to change who I am to try and be like someone else - I'm going to be myself."

Early years

Born in New York, the chief has called Florida home since her family moved south when she was 5 years old.

Aside from an older sister who joined the Army four years earlier, the chief knew very little about the military at the time she decided to enlist.

"Right after high school I thought, well my sister joined the Army, so I'll join the Air Force," she said.

After attending Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Hickey went to the Basic Inventory Management Course at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado - a career field she has remained in throughout her 21years in the Air Force.

When Hickey learned on the last day of tech school that she had an assignment to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., she switched with another Airman who was desperate to go to California.

"I just happened to walk by this girl who was on the phone crying and talking in Spanish about how she was going to Fort Hood in Texas," the chief said. "At the time I was thinking, 'my sister is at Fort Hood and I don't want to be anywhere near her,' but I felt bad for the girl and wanted to help her so switched assignments."

She attributes that experience as a lesson in empathy.

Didn't always come easy

"I wasn't always a good Airman," she said. "I wasn't a bad Airman; I was just not a shining superstar."

She remembers an Enlisted Performance Report that she didn't agree with, as well as attending Airman Leadership School, as the turning points in her otherwise "average career to that point."

"That EPR changed me," the chief said. "I remember the exact line on it: 'Increased knowledge in primary duties and professionalism is needed for promotion."

It wasn't until she went to ALS soon after receiving that EPR that she began to understand what that EPR bullet meant.

"When I went to ALS I had such a good time and was so motivated when I went back to my unit," she said. "For some reason, everything clicked after that point and I started winning a lot of awards and thriving in the Air Force."

On her new role at Hanscom

Among those awards was one that would bring her to Hanscom AFB in 2005.

"I was the Electronic Systems Center NCO of the Year in 2005," said Hickey, who was then assigned to the Air Force CPSG at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, a geographically separated unit of Hanscom's Electronic Systems Center. "I was fortunate to spend a very cold week at Hanscom and at least learn a little about the area."

Now back at Hanscom as the base's top enlisted member, Hickey is eager to learn more about the area, the base, the challenges and the people of Hanscom.

"Throughout my career it seems I have been at the right place, at the right time," the chief said. "This assignment is another exciting opportunity for me and my family and I look forward to working with the men and women of Team Hanscom."

And like many of her predecessors, Hickey would like to help members of the 66th Air Base Group understand their role in the complex mission that exists here.

"I want to help the junior enlisted corps understand that what they do is critically important to our Air Force," the chief said. "It may be hard for them to understand that, but it is so true."