FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Saving lives is nothing new to Sgt. 1st Class Alicia Hofmann. As an Army Reserve medic, she saved lives while deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a civilian registered nurse, she has cared for patients and saved many lives in medical-surgical nursing, oncology, cardiology, and psychiatry. But, on Oct. 4, 2014, her life-saving skills were tested by fire, literally, earning her the coveted Soldier’s Medal.
At that time, Hofmann was a staff sergeant and assigned as the senior medic to the 303rd Military Police Company in Jackson, Michigan. That Saturday morning appeared to be an ordinary day, like any other day, as the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio native was driving on Interstate 94 to her Army Reserve battle assembly. As she passed under a bridge, she was stunned to see fire coming from an automobile that had struck a guardrail.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” said Hofmann. “I had never experienced anything like it. Before I knew it, I had pulled over on the side of the road, not even thinking about it. For me, it wasn’t a choice. I knew I had to stop and help.”
Even though she felt scared, she kept her wits about her and decided to park her car far ahead of the burning vehicle. She didn’t want to take a chance that her car would catch on fire from the accident.
Quickly assessing the scene, her Army medic and civilian nursing training immediately kicked in. She dialed 9-1-1 on her cell phone, described the incident to the dispatcher, and, leaving her phone on, put it in her pocket. Hofmann cautiously ran toward the man stuck in the driver’s seat of the burning car. She observed he was in and out of consciousness, and estimated that he was approximately 300 pounds. He told her that he was the only person in the car. Wearing no seatbelt, the man was able to drop his seat back, at Hofmann’s request, allowing her more room to pull him out. She pulled him as far as she could, but he was still partially in the oven-like vehicle.
Realizing that she could not physically extract him by herself, she waved down another driver. As luck would have it, an Army National Guard Soldier with the 507th Forward Support Company (Engineers), Spc. Bryant Williams, was also driving to his battle assembly that morning. Williams parked his vehicle on the roadside and jumped out to help Hofmann. She recognized that Williams felt intimidated by her rank, so she tried to put him at ease by telling him, “I know that you know what to do. You’ve been trained to do this. We can do this.”
Even though they did not know each other, Hofmann could tell Williams trusted her judgment and followed her lead. Together, they quickly pulled the man out and soon after, police officers and fire fighters arrived. The fire fighters checked for leaks and other safety hazards to ensure it was safe for Hofmann and Williams to return to their vehicles.
Unsurprisingly, Williams and Hofmann were late to their morning formations. Hofmann said that the strong odor of smoke and blood stains on her uniform were convincing enough for her chain of command. Instead of administering a negative counseling for tardiness, they praised Hofmann for her selfless actions.
In March 2017, Hofmann was assigned to the 8th Regiment, 100th Health Services Battalion, 4th Brigade, 100th Training Division, where she currently serves as an instructor/writer. To honor her bravery and heroism, her current chain of command ensured she would be recognized for her actions.
Hofmann was awarded the Soldier’s Medal at a ceremony here on Sept. 29, 2017. Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Lombardo, the senior enlisted leader for the 100th TD, spoke at the award ceremony.
“Her quick thinking and composure were instrumental in saving that man’s life,” Lombardo said. “That guy was lucky that Sgt. 1st Class Hofmann was there that day. The medical, fire and law enforcement authorities said that if it had not been for her heroic actions, putting her own life in danger, that man would have died. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Looking back at the incident, Hofmann credits the Army “train like you fight” mantra instilled in her. She believes that if it had not been for her Army medic training, she would not have reacted the way she did.
“It was so intimidating and scary,” Hofmann said. “The fire was so close to me, less than five feet from where we were pulling him out. I was amazed at how natural and smooth everything went. I credit it to my Army training.”
As a civilian, Hofmann works as a behavioral health RN for Summa Health Systems at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron. She previously worked in cardiology, and then decided to care for adults with substance abuse and behavioral health issues. She also works as a fitness coach, serves on several nursing councils, and is involved with her church’s youth activities.
The Soldier’s Medal is awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Army, distinguishes themselves by heroism not involving conflict with an enemy. The criteria for receiving the medal is that the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life, and is not solely awarded on the basis of having saved a person’s life.