Women’s History Month: Up for any challenge

  • Published
  • By 1Lt Kinder Blacke
  • 552 Air Control Wing Public Affairs
As the commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing, Colonel Patricia D. Hoffman has an incredible amount of responsibility; however, armed with her extensive education and diverse background, she is determined to meet the challenge.

Colonel Hoffman is responsible for maintaining and employing Air Combat Command's fleet of 32 E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft and four ground-based Control and Reporting Centers (CRC) in support of combatant commanders around the world. On top of that, she leads and cares for the 5,500 Airmen in the wing.

"Colonel Hoffman is dedicated to her Airmen and the 552 ACW," said Col. Joseph Rossacci, vice commander, 552 ACW. "She embodies the 'service before self' attitude which makes her a role model for thousands of Airmen," he added.

Colonel Rossacci and Colonel Hoffman share a similar past-- both began their careers with the 552 ACW as air battle managers. Now, as her teammate, Colonel Rossacci explains, "she has a great balance of professionalism and leadership, and our Airmen know she genuinely cares about them and their families."

"It's a tremendous responsibility," Colonel Hoffman said when asked about her role as the wing commander, "and there are added challenges due to old weapon systems, aging equipment and limited resources."

Yet the wing is able to overcome these challenges because of great people who work hard and make smart decisions with the resources they have, she said.

Colonel Hoffman is proud to command a wing that consistently receives praise from Air Force leadership for its ability to be so agile and to deliver the world's premier command and control (C2). "We are a critical C2 node and our combatant commanders have a high demand for the C2 they get from AWACS and CRCs," she said.

The wing is frequently tasked to provide its high-quality C2 with very short notice. "We're a 24/7/365 on-call wing and, with the support of the 72nd Air Base Wing, we've been able to get our Airmen out the door to answer our Nation's call every time," said Colonel Hoffman.

This assignment is just one of the many challenges Colonel Hoffman has tackled since she joined the Air Force in 1987, inspired by her great-uncle's stories and memorabilia from WWI and his travels with the arctic explorer, Admiral Richard Byrd. "I've always had a spirit of adventure and wanted to get out there and do something interesting," she explained.

But it wasn't just for the adventure that Colonel Hoffman decided to join the Air Force. "I felt it was important to be committed to something bigger than myself," she said. "I wanted do something for my country... to be one of the defenders, rather than the defended."

When she first put on the uniform, Colonel Hoffman had no master plan or long-term goals. She began as an air battle manager, yet remained open-minded and let the Air Force determine her path from there. "My only goal was to do my best wherever I was," she said.

This open-minded approach resulted in a very interesting career during which Colonel Hoffman has earned four masters degrees, become an Olmsted Scholar, flown over 2300 hours, served in a variety of airborne and ground C2 units at the tactical and operational levels, travelled to 58 countries and been on every continent except Antarctica.

Throughout her impressive career, Colonel Hoffman accepted and conquered many challenges and never felt any limitations based on her gender. As one of eight children in her family, she grew up in an atmosphere where both the girls and the boys mowed the yard, did the household chores, and played sports together, she said. "Gender was never a consideration in determining what I wanted to do," she said, and it continues to be that way today.

"I've always felt as though I've been judged on my performance and capabilities alone," she said. The rank and rating systems in the military help level the field even more, regardless of gender, race or religion, she explained.

Not only did Colonel Hoffman's parents raise her in a gender-neutral environment, they also serve as her inspiration when times get tough, she said.

"My parents raised a family of eight children and had to sacrifice a lot to feed, clothe and house all of us. My dad worked during the day and my mom worked nights so that one of them would always be home with us," Colonel Hoffman explained. "Mom saved where she could, which led her to create what she called 'Mother's Surprises,' which were chocolate chip cookies without the most expensive ingredient, the chocolate chips!"

Colonel Hoffman says she sees parallels with today's resource-constrained environment in the Air Force and in the 552 ACW, which is "a big mission with limited resources." Yet like her parents, Colonel Hoffman strives to accomplish the mission, and make it fun.

So far, her attitude and perseverance have earned her great success.

"Colonel Hoffman has worked very hard to get where she is and remembers where she came from. She doesn't expect anything, and gives all she's got," said Colonel Rossacci about Colonel Hoffman's dedication.

Lieutenant Colonel Carson Elmore, director of staff, 552 ACW, agrees. "Ask anyone to compare time cards with the commander," he said, "she is an example of commitment."

Airmen can learn a lot from Colonel Hoffman: "Do your homework and be thorough. Do things right the first time. Make the right decision with not only the present, but also the future in mind." In other words, "measure twice, cut once," Colonel Elmore said.

While she may be teaching the wing to "measure twice," Colonel Hoffman's advice to Airmen is simple: "Do your best wherever the Air Force needs you. Find what inspires you and keep that fire alive!"