Siblings Serve Side-by-Side In 180th Fighter Wing
by U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
July 15, 2019
The Guard Family is a well-known phrase throughout the Air National Guard, highlighting the close-knit relationships built while serving as members of the Air National Guard, often times serving entire 30-year careers with the same unit.
Bringing true meaning to the phrase, Senior Airman Arika Hoffman and her brother, Senior Airman Alex Hoffman, decided to embark on a journey of military service together, enlisting with the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing in 2015.
Senior Airman Arika Hoffman, a client systems technician assigned to the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, and her brother, Senior Airman Alex Hoffman, a tactical aircraft mechanic who is also assigned to the 180FW, began their military careers together in 2015. (Air National Guard photo by USAF Senior Master Sgt. Beth Holliker)
“I always kind of knew I would end up serving in the military,” said Senior Airman Alex Hoffman, a tactical aircraft maintainer assigned to the 180FW. “But my decision to join the Air Force came after considering a few different options. I talked to both the Army and the Navy, but my dream of flying led me to choose the Air Force, and the ANG, so I could pursue a college degree as well.”
Knowing that serving in the military had always been something they both wanted to be a part of, after choosing the ANG, it was Arika, a client systems technician assigned to the 180FW, who suggested they do it together.
Side-by-side, the Hoffman siblings headed to Basic Military Training, conducted at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, conquering all of the challenges that came their way before heading off to their respective career technical training.
“We joined about a month a part,” Arika said. “But, we were fortunate enough to experience basic training together, watching each other get yelled at or get made fun of, and having our family fly down to watch us graduate together.”
The Hoffman’s are no strangers to military service and are following in the footsteps of several family members who have served before them, in four of the five military branches that make up the U.S. Armed Forces. Arika and Alex’s older brother is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force and their cousin is serving alongside of them at the 180FW as an F-16 pilot assigned to the wing.
Now, nearing their four-year anniversary of military service, both Arika and Alex couldn’t be happier with their decision to enlist.
As a client systems technician, Arika’s primary role is to assist unit members with various IT, or information technology, related questions or problems. She assists with setting up user accounts, installing drivers, fixing printers and helping members navigate through basic troubleshooting processes.
“The things I enjoy the most are the people and the challenge the job brings each day,” Airka said. “I joined the communications flight with very little IT knowledge. I was nervous and very excited to learn something new. I have been so lucky to work beside some pretty amazing people and being able to learn from everyone in the communications flight as well as getting to know so many other influential people here at the 180FW.”
As an aircraft maintainer, or crew chief, Alex’s primary role is to oversee the status of his assigned F-16 fighter jet and ensure it remains in the most mission capable condition possible. He is responsible for the daily maintenance and service of the aircraft, scheduled inspections and maintenance of the main systems of the jet. He is also responsible for having knowledge of various specialized aircraft systems and coordinating service requirements with the sections on base that maintain those systems, including avionics, hydraulics, fuels, propulsion and structural.
“My favorite part of the job is the constant challenge,” said Alex. “Every day brings something different than the last and keeps me on my toes. Also, launching the jet out after a few days of in-depth maintenance and seeing it take flight, knowing that all of the hard work you put in made it happen. It gives me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.”
Both of the Hoffman siblings have learned and accomplished so much in their short time in the military, most significantly, being hired as fulltime employees at the 180FW.
For Alex, being assigned to and named as the dedicated crew chief for aircraft tail number 0527, becoming the person primarily responsible for all aspects of a particular aircraft, has been his most important accomplishment yet.
“When I got back from technical school, I barely understood the basics of what it took to be a crew chief,” Alex said. “I looked up to everyone above me and tried my best to learn from each of them. It’s because of them that I am even able to hold such a title and I can only try my best to uphold everything it means to be a dedicated crew chief.”
Earning a military coin during her first deployment, from a senior noncommissioned officer, outside of her primary career field, has been deemed one of Airka’s biggest accomplishments to date as coins are often presented to Airmen recognized for outstanding performance and achievement.
When one of the unit’s primary computer systems, used for processing military pay for unit members, went down, Arika pulled her knowledge, reached out to colleagues from the field and came up with a plan to rectify the issue. She was able to help each member on the trip to process pay documents before the unit returned back to home-station.
“I was back from technical school for just about a year when I found out that I would be supporting a two-week deployment with the aviation package,” Arika said. I was so nervous, I didn’t feel prepared and I knew very few people outside of the communications flight. It may seem like a little task to some, but to me, it proved that I was capable of tackling the issue at hand and getting it done.”
Now, both serving fulltime with the 180FW, Arika and Alex plan to make a career out of their military service and are excited to what opportunities will come in the future and to making lifelong memories together and with their new Guard Family.
It was on a recent deployment to Patrick Air Force Base, Florida that highlighted the Guard Family concept.
“There was just something special about the trip,” said Alex. “We were working hard and flying a lot, but I was having just as much fun at work as I was playing volleyball with everyone after work. It really highlighted to me what it is that I love so much about being in the 180FW. We’re just one big family and there is nothing we cannot accomplish together.”
For Arika, the Guard Family concept is also important to her, but it’s serving alongside of her brother that means the most.
“I’d honestly have to say that the most important memory I’ve made so far is graduating BMT alongside my brother,” said Arika. “It’s not something that I think many others can say and I will forever cherish the fact that we were fortunate enough to experience such an important and life-changing event together.”
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