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161st first sergeant named top in National Guard

Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins, 161st Force Support Squadron, has been named as the National Guard’s First Sergeant of the Year for 2012. A traditional Guardsman, Sergeant Hudgins volunteered for a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He served as the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron first sergeant leading a joint combat environment.

Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins, 161st Force Support Squadron, has been named as the National Guard’s First Sergeant of the Year for 2012. A traditional Guardsman, Sergeant Hudgins volunteered for a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He served as the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron first sergeant leading a joint combat environment.

PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- Master Sgt. Fred "Wes" Hudgins, former First Sergeant for the 161st Maintenance Squadron and currently assigned to Joint Force Headquarters Air Staff, has been named as the National Guard's First Sergeant of the Year for 2012.

A traditional Guardsman, Sergeant Hudgins volunteered for a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He served as the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron first sergeant leading a joint combat environment.

Throughout the deployment, Sergeant Hudgins was responsible for more than 750 servicemembers located in the south, southwest and western portions of southern Afghanistan's most hostile and volatile battle space. He traveled more than 6,000 miles outside-the-wire via ground convoys and rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

"Master Sergeant Hudgins -- both home and deployed - cares about people and he showed just how much during the year," said. Maj. Patrick McDonnell, 161st Maintenance Squadron commander. "While deployed, he took care of Airmen and soldiers who were in harm's way every day and did it whole heartedly, placing his personal life on hold. While home, he showed he was more than a part-time Guardsman by being there for members ALL the time."

A retired special agent for the State of Arizona, Sergeant Hudgins led the response through more than 30 rocket attacks and directed members to bunkers during his 6-month deployment.

Sergeant Hudgins, who has been recognized several times throughout his military career for his dress and appearance, spoke with more than 400 deployed Airmen in Afghanistan on standards and discipline.

"I'm proud to be his commander, proud to be his coworker, and proud to be his friend," Major McDonnell said. "Master Sergeant Hudgins makes the 161st a family. His caring attitude and willingness to help others is an example we can all learn something from. He is truly a first-class Airman."

Sergeant Hudgins said he's honored to be named as the First Sergeant of the Year.

"Being ANG's First Sergeant of the Year means I've competed with the best in each state and to be selected means others think highly of my accomplishments and abilities," he said.

Sergeant Hudgins said his experience of being a first sergeant has been the most rewarding and best experience of his military career.

"The unique deployment opportunity spent in Afghanistan in 2011 enabled me to utilize various skills learned throughout my military and law enforcement careers," he said. "I recognize the influence my fellow first sergeants had on me while serving on active duty and in the Air National Guard. These men and women, in my mind, are a special breed. These individuals come back every day and continue to do great things for our Air National Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the communities they serve."

Taking care of Airmen, assisting with their personal concerns and watching them grow are the things Sergeant Hudgins considers to be his favorite aspect of being a first sergeant.

"My role is to advise the commander and ensure a 100-percent mission-ready enlisted force," he said. "It's vital to make sure Airmen are prepared and somehow have a sixth sense to take care of things before they happen. Having Airmen who are trained, focused, ready to work hard, fight and win at any time is paramount."

Ensuring Airmen have all the tools and resources necessary to do their job and to witness their successes along the way is what Sergeant Hudgins thinks being a first sergeant is all about.

"Wherever my footsteps fall, wherever there is an Airman who needs me, that's where I'll be," he said.

Being a first sergeant for the 161st Maintenance Squadron was a memorable experience, according to Sergeant Hudgins.

"Major Patrick McDonnell is an outstanding commander and friend and I especially enjoyed working with him."

Sergeant Hudgins gave a special thanks to his mother and father, his wife, children, mentors, friends, and members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing and Air National Guard.

"Without their support and guidance over the years, I would not be the person I am today," he said. "I share this award with my family, the 161st ARW and the state of Arizona. It is about serving others and making a difference, period."