Leader Spotlight: Senior Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins

Leader Spotlight: Senior Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins

PHOEINX – Senior Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins, personnel superintendent for the Arizona Air National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters, was recognized as the top First Sgt. For the National Guard in 2012. Throughout his career, he has used his competitive successes in automotive racing to keep him at the top of his game as he inspires new Airmen to be the best they can be. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Wes Parrell/Released)

Editor’s note: This is the second article in the AZNG Leader Spotlight series, a collection of features about the diverse experience and leadership perspectives of Arizona guardsmen. Join the conversation on social media using #AZNGleaderspotlight. Comment on these articles with your take on leadership and nominate other AZNG leaders you think should be featured.


PHOENIX – Teamwork and a competitive spirit are the driving forces of a world-class organization at the top of its game. For the Arizona National Guard, the drive of its members to be the best of the best is the key to the organization’s success. Senior Master Sgt. Fred “Wes” Hudgins, who was the 2012 top First Sgt. for the National Guard, draws from his success and experience in automotive racing to keep the organization running like a “well-oiled machine.”


Just like a high performance engine, the Arizona National Guard has many moving parts that must be fine-tuned and properly aligned to fire on all cylinders. For a person like Hudgins whose earliest childhood memories are of his dad and uncle working on race cars, this leadership philosophy comes naturally.   


“I spent hours learning the ins and outs of high performance engines,” Hudgins said. “We would fine tune the engine to get as much power out of the car as possible. Our focused efforts had one common goal, to be the best and fastest on the track.”


In high school his competitive spirit was the driving force as he participated as a three-sport athlete: football, basketball and track. After graduating, Hudgins made his first attempt at a college education.


“I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend college after high school,” Hudgins said. “It was the first time in my life that I was not participating in an organized sport and was missing the team work and camaraderie. I really didn’t place as much effort on my education as I should have and just needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”


After speaking with a few friends who had joined the military right out of high school, Hudgins began to research his options as a future service member. In 1986, he enlisted into the U.S. Air Force as a T-38 Talon crew chief.


 “I spoke to an Air Force recruiter and immediately I was hooked,” Hudgins said. “I was joining a world-class team, and I was going to be working on an aircraft with a supersonic jet engine.”


 After five years active duty, Hudgins began working for the State of Arizona. To continue his military career he enlisted in the Arizona Air National Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing. Hudgins went back to school, earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and in 2005 he completed his master’s degree in organizational management.


“The National Guard provided me an opportunity to serve my county while pursuing my personal goals as well,” Hudgins said. “I was able to continue my pursuit of a higher education and I began competitive racing again.”


Hudgins love for racing never died. He built a heads-up late ‘80s model 1,400 horsepower, nitrous oxide-injected Ford Mustang and began drag racing across the country. For over 20 years Hudgins was in the top of his field and his drag racing car was featured in Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords magazines as one of the top 10 Mustangs in the country.


“I have always been a competitive person and try to give 100 percent to everybody who relies on me,” Hudgins said. “I push the Airmen who serve with me to be the best they can be. Young Airmen need to understand that no matter what your status, you need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice because you’ll never know when an opportunity will be afforded to you.”


In 2011, Senior Master Sgt. Hudgins retired from his civilian law enforcement position with the State of Arizona and now works full time as the personnel superintendent for the Arizona Air National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters


“I accredit my success to great leadership. It is important to seek out people doing positive things and look for mentors in your career field. Mimicking those type of people will always lead to success.”