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NEWS | March 19, 2024

Bethel Readiness Center dedicated to local veteran, distinguished leader in community

By Seth LaCount Alaska National Guard

BETHEL, Alaska — The Alaska National Guard’s Bethel Readiness Center was dedicated to Maj. Robert Joseph Hoffman on March 15, 2024. Hoffman was joined by his loved ones, community members and fellow servicemembers in a celebration of his character and selfless leadership throughout his military career.

The dedication of the armory honored Hoffman’s lasting impact on his community where he continues to serve and make better today.  
Maj. Gen Torrence Saxe, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and long-time friend of Hoffman spoke about his distinct character and leadership during the ceremony.

“One of the meanings for Hoffman is caretaker of the land. You cannot separate the land from the people. He is a leader of the people. He is someone who has gone forward and set the example,” Saxe said. “He puts people above the person he sees in the mirror. It’s not about him, it’s about others.”

Hoffman enlisted into the Army National Guard in 1971 and became a member of the 2nd Scout Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment in Bethel. At that time, the battalion was nearly 700 Soldiers strong. During his speech, Hoffman detailed the powerful and far-reaching impact that his unit has had in both the community and around the state.

“It’s been one of the most amazing sights I’ve got to witness in my life,” Hoffman said. “The medics we sent to school are now active in the health department today in what we call village help aids. The aviation Soldiers are now commercial and bush pilots that make a difference. The leaders we had then are the leaders of today in their tribes, corporations, and boards of directors.”

In 1972, Hoffman commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and in 1975 he graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course. He served in multiple leadership positions to include platoon leader, company commander, battalion operations and training officer and logistics officer.

Hoffman talked about the vital role that the National Guard played in the Bethel community in his time serving and shared his vision for the future of the National Guard, in which rural Alaskan communities are enhanced by quality training and opportunities that allow their young people to thrive.

“I would love to have our young men and women build themselves up and create what we once had: pride in ourselves and our communities, Hoffman said. “In the scouts, people knew us, and they wanted to be us. I would love to see that legacy continued.”

During the ceremony, several of the speakers highlighted the rich history of rural Alaska and what Soldiers from the region brought to the U.S. military. According to Saxe, the Bethel Readiness Center is in a region of Alaska that holds strategic importance for the military and the value of having Soldiers in that area cannot be understated

The Alaska Territorial Guard, that predated the modern-day National Guard 2-297th Scout Battalion was approximately 7,000 strong. They were the eyes and ears looking west during World War II. Soldiers from rural Alaskan hubs like Bethel have long played a role in being the arctic experts for the military in the state.

“Today is about Robert Hoffman, and it’s also about the community. I want this to be a place where people can come, and for it to be part and parcel of the community,” Saxe said. “For this part of Alaska, Robert has said it is safe to sleep tonight. I’ve got the watch. Now it’s our turn to continue that legacy.”

Hoffman’s legacy will be one of servant leadership that places value on what can be accomplished when people are empowered and given opportunities to serve the people around them.