Senior Airman Charles Sothikhoun profiles his backpack during an interview at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 13, 2012. Known here as “Charlie, the guy with the backpack,” he walks around base nightly looking for any way to help. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)
Senior Airman Charles Sothikhoun, 8th Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspector, poses with all the supplies he hauls around in his backpack at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 13, 2012. He said his goal in helping people is so no one gets in trouble, is forgotten or left alone. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)
The supplies from Senior Airman Charles Sothikhoun’s backpack are displayed at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 13, 2012. His most-requested items are water and bugspray, but he also carries a wealth of other items to be ready for most situations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)
Senior Airman Charles Sothikhoun, right, makes his daily rounds with his backpack at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 20, 2012. Dubbed as Kunsan’s unofficial Wingman, he said his goal in helping people is to make sure nobody gets in trouble, is forgotten or left alone. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley)
by Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/19/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Charlie, the guy with the backpack, is something of a local figure.
He roams the Kunsan nightlife scene with his survival kit backpack, prepared to help however he can, whether it's assisting a fellow Airman home or supergluing a girl's broken heel.
Parched? He has water. Bug bitten? He has bugspray and itch cream. Injured? He has bandages in his first aid kit. He's ready for any situation, typical or far-fetched -- rope, a signal mirror, Midol, roach spray, Gorilla Glue and much more.
A quiet and unassuming guy, Senior Airman Charles Sothikhoun, an 8th Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspector, is hesitant to take credit for his good deeds. When asked whether he once dug through a sandpit for eight hours to help a stranger find his wedding band, he responded, "Oh, that? It was only six hours."
Although "Charlie," as he's known around the Wolf Pack, wouldn't talk about all the ways he has helped people, there was an outpouring of witnesses willing to vouch for this ultimate Wingman.
"Charlie is everyone's best friend here, whether they realize it or not," said Senior Airman Justin Ogburn, 8th MXS precision-guided munitions crew chief. "It's almost like he has a sixth sense for someone in need. I don't know how many times I have needed him for bugspray, and he just shows up out of nowhere.
"I had a bike wreck a few weeks ago and posted about it on Facebook. Charlie came and found me after work to see if I needed first aid. He is always concerned for his fellow Airmen, and that is what makes Charlie the greatest Wingman ever."
Bugspray is one of the most requested items from Charlie's arsenal, but he's also prepared for any situation that might arise -- rubber gloves, flashlights, umbrellas, beef jerky, a sewing kit and much, much more. And, if a comrade's blues uniform ever needs spiffing up on a Monday, he carries a lint brush and shoe polish as well.
So what leads him to voluntarily carry around his 20- to 30-pound backpack on a daily basis? Was there some event that sparked the creation of his store of random, yet useful, supplies? Does he feel like a superhero helping so many people?
Getting Charlie to divulge these details took some coercing.
"I'm not a vigilante who has a specific reason I decided to start doing this," said Charlie. "I just do what I believe is right. People are trying to have a good time, and I want to make sure no one gets in trouble or is forgotten or left alone. I do it to the best of my ability.
"I do it every night because there is always someone else working too," he added. "Cops, civil engineers, the air traffic controllers, flightline workers, officers ... they are all working."
Although a quiet person, he's not shy about approaching any situation to make sure everyone is alright.
"Charlie once stopped to make sure I was okay walking home with the group I was with," said Senior Airman Kelli Brown, previously with the 8th MXS but now stationed in England. "I'm a girl and a mechanic, so most of my friends are men. It was very sweet of him to make sure it was the right circumstance.
"He is such a truly caring, responsible and kind person. I don't know how he is always so prepared, no matter what situation you're in, but it's a blessing," she added. "We should all aim to be better Wingmen like Charlie. This would be a much better Air Force if we took half as good of care for everyone as he has his Kunsan family."
Charlie's efforts have been recognized at all levels, from the wing commander when he earned Kunsan's "Pride of the Pack" to group commanders at softball games, and most importantly, all the Airmen he helps.
"He personifies the Wingman concept," said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Boyle, 8th MXS superintendent. "At a base like Kunsan, it's reassuring to know someone like him is looking out for friends and families. He's given me bug repellent at the Loring Club before, and I've seen him give someone medicated ointment for their rash. He's not in it for the recognition ... he really cares about the Wolf Pack."
There were many accounts of his kindness: providing Neosporin and Band-aids, helping a friend spackle up holes in his dorm room wall, countless times he handed out water bottles.
"I have no doubt Charlie would give you the shirt off of his back in a blinding blizzard," said Staff Sgt. Alfonso Vigil, 8th MXS. "Scratch that ... he wouldn't have to. I'm sure that bag of his has an emergency blanket and hand warmers in it. Keep on doing what you do, Charlie!"
9/24/2012 6:23:47 PM ET Charlie has helped me get to work or home several times. He'd spy me walking across base usually headed the wrong direction turn around and offer me a ride. I'm glad to see he's getting some recognition for all his kind hearted efforts. It's well deserved.
9/21/2012 6:11:27 AM ET Charlie is the epitome of an airman image.
Michael Marks, Kunsan
9/20/2012 4:31:32 AM ET This guy is a lifesaver. He will never let you down and is always there no matter what. Great guy. Keep it up Sothi
9/20/2012 12:25:47 AM ET Me and Sothikhoun were BMT trainees in the same flight. We happened to end up on the RoK together and i'm so glad we did. This guy hooked me up with anything from a pencil and paper to a custom engraved coin when i PCS'ed. Charlie is the man and we had plenty of great sober times in Korea. He does not drink and just like the article says he is out literally every night helping strangers. The guy never sleeps He says 4 hours is just fine and when he gets older he made need to sleep more but for now he is using his youth to help others. See yeah soon homie enjoy the rest of your time on the Penn
jeremiah, Luke AFB
9/19/2012 2:10:23 PM ET Apparently someone brought him up with ideals that are revealed in what he's doing with his life today. To them I also give Big Bravos.
Charles Stauffer, Glendora CA
9/19/2012 6:15:47 AM ET Charlie is AMAZING He is such a good guy and as this article states ALWAYS there for someone in need.