BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Once a year, first sergeants are offered an opportunity to put in for an award exclusive to their special duty position in the Senior NCO tier. This year, Team Buckley’s Master Sgt. Robert Hotzfeld, 460th Mission Support Group first sergeant, has been chosen to receive 14th Air Force First Sergeant of the Year.
“Being a first sergeant is by far the greatest job in the world,” said Hotzfeld. “I honestly don’t feel like I’m working. It makes me feel good to be able to make a difference in someone’s life.”
For award consideration, Hotzfeld submitted the necessary criteria which consisted of a write-up, a biography, physical fitness test scores, photos and more. When he was chosen at the group level, he continued on by standing before an in-person board which was chaired by the wing Command Chief and the group’s senior enlisted leaders.
“This was a great learning experience,” said Hotzfeld. “I am usually the person prepping our Airmen for boards, now I was prepping myself. It was very eye opening.”
Because he was a winner at the wing level, he was sent to his respective numbered Air Force; from there he moved on to MAJCOM and then to the AF level. Not only was he a 460th Space Wing winner, but he took the 14th AF level win as well.
Hotzfeld believes that one of the most important aspects of his career and his special duty position as a first sergeant is to take care of Airmen.
“I have always been a people-person,” said Hotzfeld. “When I was coined as an Airman, the front of the coin said ‘Mission First, People Always.’ I always said if I had a coin, it would say, 'People First, Mission Always.'”
Much like any job, the duties of a first sergeant are not always easy, however, Hotzfeld’s mindset is very focused on helping Airmen through any situation. He reminds them that he is their advocate, whether it is sitting next to them at an award ceremony or behind them in a court room.
“When I was having family issues and was too upset to talk to anyone about it, Master Sgt. Hotzfeld noticed my distress and commenced in helping me get through a tough time,” said Airman 1st Class Aaron Haywood, 460th MSG career development technician. “That one instance is small compared to the other things I will [not] mention but it made the biggest impact, because not only did I get my issue resolved, I realized I had a wingman to lean on when needed in any situation.”
Hotzfeld’s work with his Airmen at the 460th MSG is a product he can be proud of, and he can truly say he is upholding himself to the ‘People First, Mission Always’ attitude.
“Master Sergeant Hotzfeld takes the time and puts in the extra effort to actually talk to a person and get to know them, not just make small talk or poke his head in the room,” said Senior Airman Shelby Richardson, 460th Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician. “He treats every single person with the same respect, no matter if they are currently in a difficult position or have a questionable reputation, no matter their rank or future career goals.”
His drive to offer the utmost support is not something he limits to the people in his unit, but something he shares with the community as well.
In another one of his notable efforts, Hotzfeld has taken part in Operation Warmheart for the last two years, which entails collecting and handing out donations for families in need over the holidays. Some of the other work he does year-round to further support around the Buckley community is getting backpacks for kids starting school, finding donors to provide scientific calculators and working to get business attire for transitioning military members.
“This is all part of his willingness to help others,” said Master Sgt. Amber Hotzfeld, the first sergeant’s wife. “And this award is a testament of the great things he’s done for everyone in his squadrons and around Buckley AFB. We are very proud.”
Hotzfeld is incredibly thankful for his wife and his family for their immeasurable support and patience through the years. It was put into perspective for Hotzfeld in one message from his father in a birthday card that read, ‘You’re my hero.’
“They have always been there for me,” said Hotzfeld. “They put up with my long hours and middle of the night phone calls. Not only do they put up with it, but they understand that I am doing good things for our country and our Airmen.”
Hotzfeld’s life-changing work does not stop here because he received this award. His plan is to continue to lead by example and help his Airmen in every way he can.
“He is the number one 'Shirt' because of who he is as a person,” said Richardson. “And I admire his character. I am completely psyched that he has gotten the recognition he deserves. I am truly, whole heartedly thankful for Master Sergeant Hotzfeld.”