Cadet Jillian Skahill has been an integral part of four years of Virginia Tech football games.

But you probably didn’t notice her. You weren’t supposed to.

Dressed in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ royal blue blouse, Skahill looked like every other member of Skipper Crew, the cadets who fire the corps’ cannon during every home game. 

She found a lot of joy in the experience – the noise, the smoke, the tradition. But more importantly, she embraced the responsibilities of timing, communication, leadership, and safety.

What made her blend seamlessly at football games is exactly why Skahill stands out to her peers — along with her love of Virginia Tech and the corps and her compassion.

“She is simply the most dedicated cadet that I have seen in my eight years here,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Willey, the senior enlisted advisor for 1st Battalion and the advisor for Skipper Crew. Skahill was the crew’s top junior, the so-called “chief of smoke,” during the 2019-20 academic year and the gun captain this year.

Don’t ask her to do something you don’t want done immediately, Willey said, only half-joking. 

“She holds herself to very high standards of accountability and will always hold others to the same,” he said. “She constantly challenges herself to be better, while making those around her better as well.”

This May, Skahill will graduate with a degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and commission as a second lieutenant into the U.S. Army’s Military Police Corps. In November, she will head to her first duty station in Germany.

“She is a diligent learner,” said Lt. Col. Curtis Armstrong, executive officer of Virginia Tech and Radford Army ROTC. “Besides her love of learning, she maintains a positive mental attitude that is omnipresent. She is also a fearless worker. As she continues to hone her knowledge and combine it with her work ethic, she will continue to be the type of officer that makes Virginia Tech proud.”

You can thank Skahill’s mom for steering her toward Virginia Tech.

Raised in Delaware, Skahill always wanted to be a police officer. She joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at her high school and discovered the military and its promise of college scholarship opportunities and a guaranteed job after graduation.

Her plan was Norwich University, a senior military college in Vermont, a few hours from home. That is, until her mom surprised her with a road trip south. Virginia Tech, her mom said, is a senior military college that offers more options, including the corps’ Citizen-Leader Track program for cadets who aren’t pursuing a military commission.

“I fell in love with the idea having the option of both sides,” Skahill said. “I wasn’t really sure what life after college would look like.”

She’s made the most of her time here. 

In addition to Skipper Crew, she’s worked her way through leadership positions in both the corps and in Army ROTC. This semester, for example, she’s the regimental operations officer charged with overseeing the planning of corps-wide events, and she’s Army ROTC’s civil affairs officer, and she commands Skipper Crew.

Skahill said she honed her time-management skills — needed because as an Army officer, she’ll never be off duty. And she’s a doer, always volunteering for extra tasks.

She learned to be adaptable.

And she learned how to take care of people — really take care of people — after she was asked to take a leadership position in a unit that was struggling. “It took me away from idea that my job was to enforce standards and made me focus on how people fit into the mission,” she said.

She’s proud of that unit today, so much so that it rivals Skipper Crew as her best experience at Virginia Tech. 

Written by Shay Barnhart