Former state command chief warrant officer leaves legacy

Helped develop Kentucky’s first Warrant Officer Candidate School

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

 

CW5 Simms - ACU

State Command Chief Warrant Officer James “Jimmy” Simms retired after 42 years of service with the Kentucky National Guard. Among his accomplishments, he helped develop Kentucky’s first Warrant Officer Candidate School. (Official Kentucky National Guard photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Retired State Command Chief Warrant Officer Jimmy Simms has had a long row to hoe, as we say here in the Bluegrass State. The fourth person to hold that prestigious position, Simms retired last month after 42 years in the Kentucky Army National Guard and leaving behind a legacy that will affect generations to come.

Born in Versailles, Simms enlisted in the Kentucky Guard in February of 1972 as a wheel vehicle mechanic. His first assignment was with the old 203rd General Support Company in Danville, Kentucky until transferring to the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery in 1984.

“I joined the Kentucky Guard when the country was still committed to Viet Nam and a lot of protest against that war was ever present,” he said. “At the age of eighteen I wasn’t sure what direction was right for me. I had friends that were in the National Guard and I liked how they could be part of the military and still go to college or have a career here at home, so I decided that was for me.”

Basic Training - 1972

A brand new Jimmy Simms 42 years ago. Little did he know where his career would take him. (Photo courtesy retired CW5 Jimmy Simms)

In 1985 Simms was appointed as a warrant officer in field artillery as the battalion maintenance technician. He would later transition to the same position for the 138th Field Artillery Brigade where he helped with the transition to the new fires brigade concept.

“After being in the Guard a while I began to see how all the different ranks and MOS’s supported each other and the unique qualities of each,” he said. “I thought about that and decided that my experience and knowledge could open the door to become a warrant officer.”

While assigned to the 138th Fires Brigade Simms was mobilized twice and deployed once to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also completed a six month tour with the Joint Task Force in support of the Alaskan Road project on Annette Island Alaska.

“I have known Chief Simms since for over 30 years,” said Maj. Gen. Lonnie Culver, who commanded Simms during his time in the artillery. “He is a great Soldier, warrant officer, father, husband and friend. It has been an honor and pleasure serving with him, and it was always good to know that I had an expert who took pride in his work and took care of his Soldiers. He represents the warrant officer corps so well.”

Homecoming

CW5 Jimmy Simms and his son, Bradley. Both father and son flew on the same flight that brought the senior Simms home from Iraq. (Photo courtesy retired CW5 Jimmy Simms)

In October 2009 Simms was transferred to the state headquarters and assigned the position of senior maintenance officer. He was promoted to the rank of CW5 in January 2010.

Simms’ career also included a variety of positions in the federal technician program, starting out as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and moving up to shop chief. He retired as a technician in in 2009 with 31 years of service. Upon his retirement he was selected to run the operational equipment reset program at the maneuver and training equipment site at Fort Knox until his selection as the fourth state command chief on February 24, 2011.

Simms had many highlights in his warrant officer career, but two stand out above all the rest: his appointment to CW5 and being part of the planning and establishing of the Kentucky National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. In July 2011 Kentucky graduated its first warrant officers and Simms was there to witness it.

“I was so proud of those eight new warrant officers,” he said. “That was a great day for Kentucky and a great day for the warrant officer program.”

Newly appointed State Command Warrant Officer Dean Stoops had high praise for his predecessor.

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State Command Chief Warrant Officer Jimmy Simms receiving the Kentucky Distinguished Service Medal from Adjutant General Edward W. Tonini on January 14, 2014. Simms relinquished his responsibility to newly appointed State Command Chief Dean Stoops and retired after 42 years of service. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

“There are several things to admire about Chief Simms, but in particular is his commitment to know about each and every Warrant Officer in the Kentucky National Guard,” said Stoops. “It’s not easy to remember the details about each Soldier, but Chief Simms has the ability to know where each of his Warrant Officers are assigned, where they work, what their civilian and military jobs are, and even the personal things he has learned over the years.

“This is the characteristic of a great leader and I hope I can do half as well as Chief Simms.”

What would Simms advise someone looking to become a warrant officer? “I would tell a young soldier considering being a warrant office to plan their career to be an outstanding NCO by attending all their professional military education and be a leader regardless of their current rank. Then when the opportunity for warrant officer becomes available they will have the background and experience to meet the requirements to apply.”

He has similar advice for senior NCOs, but he tempers it by saying, “As a senior NCO you have a vital role in your command and you must weigh the benefits to both yourself and the Guard.”

After retiring from the Guard Simms plans to spend more time with Patricia, his wife of forty years, and his three children Autumn, Bradley and Benjamin and grandchildren Preston, Brayden and Eva.

But the Guard is still in his blood. He recently accepted an appointment as the executive director of the National Guard Association of Kentucky, the professional organization for the Kentucky Guard’s officer and warrant officer corps. His passion for that organization is in sync with his continuing dedication for the Guard.

“I’d love to see all NCOs and officers become active members in either the NGAKY or the Enlisted Association National Guard of Kentucky. With a joint effort we can send a strong message from all members of the Kentucky Guard to leaders in Frankfort and Washington to support legislation that protects our military and the individual Soldier and Airmen.”

 

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