Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    ANG Chief crawl-walk-runs to recovery



    Story by Staff Sgt. Jayson Burns 

    161st Air Refueling Wing   

    GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. – Life can mix things up in an instant. We may try and plan out our future, but it can take just one accident to put those plans in jeopardy. What’s important, however, is how you respond.
    Back at the start of August, 2019, Chief Master Sergeant Wes Hudgins, the 161st Air Refueling Wing’s Operations Group Senior Enlisted Leader, visited Camp Navajo in northern Arizona to indulge in his hobby with motorcycles and took a ride on a peer’s dirt bike. Unfortunately, he experienced a terrible accident.
    Hudgins suffered twenty-nine broken and fractured bones all over his body. The vertical-shear crack in his pelvis was life-threatening if not treated correctly due to close proximity of his femoral artery to cause bleeding out.

    To say it was a scary situation is an understatement. Hudgins would spend four months in three different hospitals, with not only his recovery in question, but also his career.
    “They didn’t even know if I was going to be able to walk again.” Hudgins said. “Just to get back to work and function, that was a challenge.”
    Hudgins had initially entered active duty Air Force in 1986 before eventually joining the Arizona Air National Guard. He deployed in support of the War on Terror in 2011 as a Combat First Sergeant in the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force in Afghanistan. He would later also serve as the Personnel Superintendent at Joint Force Headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, before becoming the Operations Group Senior Enlisted Leader at the 161st Air Refueling Wing.
    It was his family and support from many Wing members that motivated him to keep pushing through the physical therapy and beyond. There were some who underestimated him, however, and Hudgins is adamant that if he had listened to them he would never have recovered as well as he has. A book he read, Can’t Hurt Me by former Navy Seal David Goggins helped with his mental toughness to get through the surgeries, physical therapy and pain. His successful recovery can be attributed to the outstanding surgical and physical therapy teams who treated him for all his injuries.
    “I felt like it was my responsibility as an OPS Chief to recover.” Hudgins said. “I believe if your feet can hit the ground then you can go to work. I wanted to get back to normal as fast as I could to continue serving at the Wing.”
    It wasn’t until December 2020, when Hudgins completed his extensive physical therapy sessions. Going from being able to walk one inch forward to three feet, it was certainly the embodiment of the “crawl-walk-run” philosophy. He has also undergone five surgeries on his throat, and another five on his main body.
    The pain followed him throughout, sometimes feeling like two dump trucks were resting on his shoulders. The opioid medication helped with the pain, but Hudgins knew he had to be careful.
    “No one likes pain, so naturally you want to keep grabbing the medication.” Hudgins said. “Getting off the opioids was a challenge, very painful, but I went cold turkey.”
    Hudgins decided it was time for him to quit using opioids when his doctor suggested he increase his dosage to combat his increase in pain. It would be very easy to fall into addiction, and it proved difficult as he went into withdrawal for twelve days. He compared the sensation to being covered in lava. Still, he has remained committed to his decision as he continues to recover from the accident.

    Hudgins’s goal for the future is to rebuild his strength and stamina, to be able to run and lift weights again. He remains positive as he continues to lead his airmen and take up the role as the 161st ARW’s Command Chief Master Sergeant, keeping to one of his favorite quotes from the film Remember the Titans: Attitude reflects leadership.
    “You have to have the will and purpose to do it.” Hudgins said. “Surround yourself with positive people. You can get through 90 percent of your struggles with the right mindset.”



    Date Taken: 03.01.2022
    Date Posted: 03.01.2022 11:27
    Story ID: 415512
    Location: PHOENIX, AZ, US

    Web Views: 514
    Downloads: 1