The Chittoms: 25 Years Later and We Still Try to Eat Lunch Together.

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shaei Rodriguez
  • 9 Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

After four children, seven assignments, and nearly 60 years of combined military service, Chief Master Sgt. Esmeralda Chittom, 9th Operations Group senior enlisted leader, and Chief Master Sgt. Bobby Chittom, 9th Maintenance Group senior enlisted leader, explain how they navigated the military as a family.


The Chittoms met in 1994 when they were both stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf, Alaska. They were introduced to each other shortly after in-processing.


“We had something similar back in the day to what you guys now know as Right Start,” said Esmeralda. “We in-processed together into Elmendorf and that is where we officially met.”


After hitting it off one evening at the movies, the couple began dating until getting engaged in 1997. They both applied for extensions in Alaska. Esmeralda was approved but Bobby was denied, and he soon received orders to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Esmeralda was hesitant about Moody because of negative experiences she had in the south during her technical training.


“I grew up in a very diverse environment in the bay,” said Esmeralda. “So, I was never exposed to any type of racism.”


After receiving counseling from the base chaplain, Esmeralda understood that as a military couple, assignments need to be embraced.


“We went to counseling and the chaplain said, ‘you’re in the military, eventually these situations are going to happen’,” said Esmeralda. “The chaplain walked me through the whole thing, ‘you say for sickness and health, the good and the bad. It’s not just where you want to go’. So, after two sessions, I was like you know what, you’re right.”


As Chiefs, they both serve in demanding roles and because of their positions, they often collaborate on projects at work. In this unique position, the Chittoms needed to learn to establish boundaries between their family and military roles.


“It’s taken 25 years, but separating her from wife, mom, and Chief Chittom, it’s a struggle because she’s supposed to be mom today, but she’s also got to be Chief Chittom,” said Bobby.


As their family grew, the Chittoms also learned to accept that they couldn’t spread their focus too thin. Instead, they would adjust their focus on the military and their home life depending on each day’s circumstances.


“An Airman once asked me how you give family and the military 110%,” said Bobby. “You can’t. It’s a seesaw, and you alternate by giving one a little more than the other each day.”


To young military couples, the Chittoms advise prioritizing communication and empathy. Sometimes, one person in the relationship is under more pressure than the other.


“I can completely understand the demands that he has,” said Esmeralda. “I know what it feels like to have that pressure of either a task or having to be somewhere while you’re short on time. Because I can relate, I’m like okay, I got the kids, I got it, go. Let me take this pressure off the home front or vice versa.”


Marriage can be challenging but working as a team and utilizing base resources like the chaplain can help maintain a healthy relationship.


“We have both always been family first,” said Esmeralda. “No matter what the demand is, when we step in to pick up for the other, it’s because we’re taking care of our family.”