435th AGOW, 435th AEW welcome new command chief

by Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 435th Air Expeditionary Wing welcomed their new command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Samuel T. Simmons. As the command chief, Simmons advises the commander and is responsible for the health and welfare, professional development, training, combat readiness, discipline and effective utilization of the organization’s enlisted personnel.

Simmons recently sat down with Ramstein public affairs to talk about his views on the 435th AGOW and 435th AEW’s roles in the Air Force mission, education and the things that shaped him as a person and leader.

Chief Master Sgt. Samuel T. Simmons
Chief Master Sgt. Samuel T. Simmons

As the new wing command chief, how has the transition been and what does it mean to you?

The transition has been phenomenal. Everybody has been so willing to help during the move, and being named the command chief for not just one wing but two is a very humbling experience. I can’t express enough how excited I am to get the ball rolling and to work with such amazing Airmen.

What is it like being the command chief for two wings?

It can definitely be taxing, but it’s a wonderful experience. I think the hardest part is trying to spend time with all the Airmen who are spread throughout Europe, Africa and all the other places the men and women of the 435th AGOW and AEW are serving. I can’t wait to get out and see the Airmen and members of this organization that are making things happen. A leader needs to know their Airmen, and getting out meeting them is the best way.

What are the goals and priorities you would like to accomplish while you are here?

My goals and priorities while I’m here are to take care of the Airmen and their families. Even though the units have key spouse programs, we still need to make sure our people are taken care of internally. If you know someone is deployed, check up on their family every once in a while, and taking care of them is a way we can take care of our deployed members.

Another goal of mine is to leave this place better than when I arrived. I want to leave a lasting impression to not only improve morale but make the daily tasks easier and more efficient.

You’ve been in several managerial positions before becoming the 435th AGOW and AEW command chief. How will your experiences help you and the wings achieve their goals?

I’ve had some incredible opportunities throughout my 26-year career, and I think each one of those is a stepping stone to becoming a leader. I have a maintenance and operations background and have also worked closely with the Army and foreign militaries. I believe having these diverse backgrounds have made me into a well rounded individual with a basic knowledge of various skills. It’s having all these different skills that have prepared me to undertake the tasks I will face as a command chief in the 435th AGOW and 435th AEW.

How do you see your previous experience working with foreign militaries aiding you in supporting the 435th AGOW, AEW and the KMC as a whole?

One of the most important lessons I have ever learned was when I was stationed in Korea. I never fully understood cultural differences until I interacted with the Korean community.

Being there taught me how to embrace diversity, not only from the different countries but our own sister services and with each other. If you can’t have respect for something as simple as
someone’s cultural values, then you’re going to have problems later on, especially being in an Air Force that is made up of people from throughout the world.

In your 26-year career, what have you valued the most and how has it gotten you to where you are today?

It has to be people. It all started with my dad; I have a huge amount of respect for him. Because of his character and determination to never give up, I learned what I needed to be a leader.

My wife, Melanie, and son, Hayden, always had a lot of faith in me when I didn’t have it in myself. They were always supportive and there for me. I also wanted to be a good role model for my sons. It’s the people I’ve had in my life along the way and the people I have surrounded myself with that have brought me to where I am today.

Specifically addressing Airmen, what advice would you give them to be successful?

I think for Airmen to be successful today you really need to watch who you surround yourself with. You need to be around people you want to emulate. There have been so many times I would see Airmen with great aspirations, and they surround themselves with people who don’t really conform to those goals.

If you want a degree, surround yourself around people who are academically inclined. If you want to score a 100 on your next PT test, then hang out with athletes. Don’t get distracted. Seek out a good mentor — someone you want to be like — and cling to them.

What is something you would like to work on while being the command chief?

Though there is always room for improvement, we have always done well with Airmen support. One observation that I’ve made that could use improvement is we need to take care of the Airmen in the more obscure places.

There are times those serving in the more austere locations may not receive mail a month or two, and we need to take care of them like we have during other deployed missions. We want them to know they are still part of our family here.

Furthermore, I want to improve on the family dynamics at home station. We have three wings here that form Ramstein, and the command chiefs are working together to revitalize the team concept. We don’t want Airmen to think there is the 86th Airlift Wing and two tenant wings; we want them to view it as one seamless operation and family.

You’ve held two Air Force Specialty Codes, for which you were able to complete your Community College of the Air Force associate’s degrees.  How were you able to accomplish this?

I was one of those folks who thought I didn’t need a degree to do well, but  around 2004-2005 I was informed if I wanted to progress in my career I needed to have my CCAF degree. It’s not that I had the goal to make chief master sergeant, but I definitely didn’t want to take myself out of the running.

While in Korea, I took two classes per semester even though it was really hard to focus on education. Though I do wish I took advantage of those opportunities earlier in my career, it was a goal of mine, and now, every semester since 2009, I have taken online courses to get my degree.
There will always be an excuse to not take classes. I know because I’ve used them all, but you
need to set a goal, start working toward it and hopefully surpass your expectations.