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Service-centric career guides Platte native Hoekman

Service has defined Jim Hoekman's life. The Platte native's 30 years of commitment to the South Dakota National Guard has represented that perfectly. Hoekman is retiring this month from his position in the National Guard, stepping down not only a...

The South Dakota Army National Guard’s State Command Sgt. Maj. James Hoekman addresses soldiers during a change of responsibility ceremony in February 2015 in Pierre. (South Dakota National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Trobee)
The South Dakota Army National Guard’s State Command Sgt. Maj. James Hoekman addresses soldiers during a change of responsibility ceremony in February 2015 in Pierre. (South Dakota National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Heather Trobee)

Service has defined Jim Hoekman's life.

The Platte native's 30 years of commitment to the South Dakota National Guard has represented that perfectly.

Hoekman is retiring this month from his position in the National Guard, stepping down not only as an enlisted member but as the organization's senior enlisted leader and from the state command sergeant major position.

In the senior enlisted leader position, Hoekman described himself as the "voice of the enlisted parties" of the Army and Air guards in the South Dakota National Guard. That meant consulting on matters involved with training, utilizing resources, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

"If the adjutant general is CEO of the organization, I'm sort of the COO," Hoekman said. "I'm there to ensure that his priorities are executed. ... I'm working to ensure that both the Air and Army enlisted men are ready to go and that we have the readiness to be called, whether it's for state or federal service. We have to be able to perform."

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Hoekman was working under Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch until Reisch's retirement was made official on June 8 at Camp Rapid. He has been replaced by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Marlette as the state's newest adjutant general. A replacement for Hoekman's positions has not been announced.

Hoekman, like Reisch, said he has taken a lot of pride in the National Guard's readiness. Since 2011, the South Dakota Army and Air National Guard have received 159 national awards for performance in various categories, including maintenance, safety, energy, supply and diversity.

"We talk about that on a daily basis," Hoekman said. "It really comes down to whether or not, if tomorrow, your soldiers are called, are they able to self-protect and to do their technical duties."

Hoekman, 53, first enlisted in the state's Army National Guard in December 1985 as a member of the 200th Engineer Company as a combat engineer and bridge specialist. He said one of the main reasons he joined the National Guard is because of his deep family connections.

Hoekman is a fourth-generation member of his family that has served in the military. His great grandfather, Wessel Hoekman, was one of three brothers that served in World War I. He was the only one who made it home. His grandfather served, and his great uncle fought in World War II under legendary Gen. George Patton, and Hoekman's father, Wesley, was in the National Guard for 27 years, including many years in the 200th Engineering Company, which was where Jim started his career.

"It's something my family has always done," he said.

The guard says Hoekman has served in nearly every key noncommissioned officer position from squad leader to command sergeant major. He also served two tours of duty in Iraq, with a deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-04, and during Operation New Dawn in Iraq and Kuwait from 2011-12. For his service, Hoekman received the Bronze Star for heroic service in a combat zone.

And Hoekman said he takes a "huge amount of pride in being from Platte" and being a part of the South Dakota National Guard.

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"That's where the South Dakota National Guard stands apart from the active (Army) component and the reserves," Hoekman said. "We're a community-based organization and the pride in Platte in that goes way back. To me, that's the difference. In those small towns, you learn the value of work, value of family and value of teamwork. It's very hard to not be proud of that."

As a civilian, Hoekman worked for 25 years as a captain, a position in which he was in charge of patrol with the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office in Sioux Falls until retiring in 2015.

Now away from his law enforcement and his guard careers, Hoekman, who lives in Brandon with his wife, Marcy, said he doesn't plan to slow down too much. He's going to work for the Lincoln County state's attorney's office as a part-time special investigator. He will be the first to hold that position for that county.

"I'm looking forward to work and serve in a different way," he said. "For me, when I grew up, I wanted to be in service to people and my whole life has been around that."

Related Topics: BRANDON
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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