MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – It was a hot July day when then-Tech. Sgt. Charles Hoffman collapsed from exhaustion in front of the Chapel where he was stationed. After a month of no sleep and losing 30 pounds due to a significant life event, he knew he needed to talk to someone.
Now Chief Master Sgt. Hoffman, newly-assigned Command Chief of Air Force Global Strike Command, recounted his personal struggle during his visit to Minot Air Force Base, July 23-26, 2019, and highlighted the importance of asking for help.
“Seek the help you need, I did,” Hoffman said. “I am a product of seeking mental health help. Those were some dark days. I came out stronger than ever, but it took a lot of work.”
Hoffman said that after collapsing that day, he struggled inside, but finally picked up an emergency phone and was talking with a chaplain within 30 minutes.
“What I remember most is that the conversation had zero to do with religion and everything to do with my situation,” Hoffman said. “He told me that I had packed 100 pounds of burden in a 20-pound ruck, and he was there to share the burden. ‘Take a few things out,’ he said.”
Hoffman started exercises with a captain from Mental Health to get through his situation.
“I remember the day I woke up – yes, I finally started eating and sleeping again – and I could see a better future,” Hoffman said. “I told my Mental Health captain that week...and we were done.”
While the help he received from Mental Health was critical, Hoffman said his leadership’s support was just as important.
“The key for me was that I had a Flight Chief who had developed a relationship with me more than ‘do the job,’ a similar-minded supervisor, and when I did get help, a Squadron Commander who supported me and had my back,” he said.
Throughout his journey, Hoffman said he learned that everyone is carrying a burden.
“That’s not unusual...it’s normal. I also learned that this family will surround you when you need them.” he said. “I also learned the value of exercise – plenty of eustress in the jobs I’ve had since. I’ve taken up Yoga and learned when it’s time for down time. I gained a lot of empathy and understanding and have tried to pay it forward ever since.”
Trust is built moment by moment, and an Airman’s focus should be to return to duty when able, Hoffman said. From the AFGSC level to base leaders, they all share the same mission and focus: for Airmen to be authentic and care about each other. Hoffman told Airmen they should also be prepared for learning, especially in the way the command does exercises.
“In today’s world, with an evolving adversary, we must be prepared to fight and defend our ground on our turf. The same as every soldier is an infantryman, every Airman must be prepared to critically think, operate, survive and win by exercising our warrior culture,” the Chief said. “We will do more of these types of maneuvers as we move forward. Expect that Global Thunder and other exercises will continue to hone our focus. Be prepared for learning.”
Hoffman’s visit showed the Air Force’s clear movement towards a goal of more resilient Airmen, and his interest in what Team Minot Airmen do every day to ensure the mission of AFGSC is carried out.
“I was impressed with Team Minot! I look forward to spending more time with you, listening, learning and leading,” Hoffman said. “Only the Best Come North!”