Texas State Air Force ROTC officer
When Paul Hoff joined the U.S. Air Force 22 years ago, he figured it was his best way to get an education.
brings range of experiences to program
It’s certainly worked out that way — in more ways than he ever could have expected. He earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, learned about the demands and rewards of leadership, and developed the skills necessary to be a highly productive member of the military.
And now Hoff, a captain in the Air Force an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Science for the Air Force ROTC Detachment 840 at Texas State University-San Marcos, is passing along that knowledge to students. Hoff just finished his third year at the university, and he serves as the Commandant of Cadets for the student wing, as well as the detachment’s academic counselor. He also teaches the program’s leadership classes.
He says Texas State benefits from its proximity to military installations in San Antonio, as a large percentage of the approximately 85 cadets in the AFROTC program are military dependents. The university’s outreach to veterans and its distance learning programs also make it attractive to members of the armed forces.
“Our programs pretty much sell themselves,” he says.
The AFROTC certainly has a good salesman in Hoff as well.
The Minnesota native enlisted in the Air Force right after high school graduation, looking for a way to earn his degree. It took him almost 12 years to get a bachelor’s and a master’s in business leadership, as he juggled job assignments in Germany and then Arizona.
“When I first got into the Air Force, I went into a Commissioning Briefing at the Education Office on base, and they were talking about OTS (Officer Training School), showing numbers required for getting into OTS,” he says. “Your GPA, your Air Force Officer Qualifying Test — kind of like an SAT — and all these different things, and it’s just astronomically hard, like it is now.
“I was thinking ‘Oh my God, I can’t get any B’s.’ But it drew the line in the sand, having high standards and doing well and working hard.”
Armed with his degrees, he wound up earning his commission. He combines what he learned along the way, both before and after his commission, in his training and recommendations to cadets at Texas State. In his role as academic counselor, he provides the mentoring that he received from officers as he worked his way up in the Air Force. He also uses his experience in training, both as an airman and an officer, and emphasizes that the keys to advancement in the military are patience and persistence.
“With the freshmen, we’ll keep hammering on them, putting them in leadership positions and giving them experience, and they’ll develop and grow,” he says. “By the time they graduate they’ll be much better leaders.
“That’s been the fun thing about being here for three years — kids who were sophomores when I got here just graduated this year and were commissioned.”
One recent graduate stands out in particular as one who picked up every lesson, from leadership to dedication to perseverance.
“My very first Leadership Lab, I watched this kid giving the safety lesson, and it was just terrible,” Hoff says. “He looked really awkward, had a really hard time.
“And then he graduated and was commissioned, and he turned out to be our best cadet. He worked almost full time at H-E-B, he’s got a 3.8 GPA, he was just phenomenal. He was a kid who had a work ethic.”
It’s a familiar story.