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Reserve Sailor of the Year: AWFC Select Kody Sims

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Tony

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NORFOLK, Va.  –  
Chief Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) Select Kody Sims is a stickler for details. He has to be. In Sims’ world, it’s the little details that often mean the difference between success and failure — terms which, in the aviation community, can equate to life and death.

That unwavering attention to detail is a major reason why Sims, a C-130 flight engineer assigned to Fleet Logistics Support Squadron Five Five (VR-55), Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California, was selected as the fiscal year 2020’s top Reserve enlisted Sailor.

“If I’m not detail-oriented, I put the rest of the crew — and the aircraft — at risk,” said Sims.

Operated by a crew of five — two officers and three enlisted aircrew personnel consisting of a pilot, copilot, radio operator-loadmaster, flight engineer, and flight attendant — the C-130 aircraft is used to provide rapid logistics support to operating forces. It can be configured to provide transportation of personnel or cargo by parachute, low level fly-by ground extraction, or landing, making it a key asset in the current era of strategic competition.

Serving as leading petty officer for both VR-55’s quality assurance and maintenance departments, Sims’ primary focus is to ensure preflight, organizational, preventive and corrective maintenance is completed to ensure the aircraft is safe, reliable and mission ready around-the-clock.

“My main job is to ensure that maintenance is being conducted safely and by the book,” said Sims. “It’s a huge responsibility.”

Getting qualified as a flight engineer is a lengthy process. Once a command recommendation has been submitted on a Sailor’s behalf, the member goes to flight engineer initial training, beginning a qualification process that can take years to complete.

Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) First Class Colton Buchanan, now a C-130 loadmaster with Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 54 (VR-54), was a second class petty officer when he met Sims and the two formed an immediate and lasting bond. Buchanan credits Sims with pushing him to achieve his loadmaster certification, leading to a significant leadership role promotion.

“He’s one of my mentors and someone who has helped me out my entire career,” said Buchanan. “I recently took over as the LPO here, and he was one of the first people who called me.”

Buchanan said he models his current leadership role on the template Sims left behind.

“Some of the most important advice he has given me is just to trust your people,” said Buchanan. “Be able to lean on them to be able to help you with any deficiency that you might have. Take care of them and always take care of them on the back end.”

A native of Marianna, Fla., Sims’s family moved around a lot when he was young. He loves Florida Gators football, farm life, and the outdoors. As a teenager, he considered a career in agriculture or possibly even aeronautical engineering.

“One day I heard the words ‘flight engineer,’ and I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” said Sims, who joined the Navy Reserve in 2011.

For Sims, there’s no daylight between his civilian and Reserve occupations. On the civilian side, he is a C-130 flight engineer with Air test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 30 at the Naval Air Warfare Center, working less than four minutes away from the locker where he hangs his VR-55 Navy Reserve flight suit. In his civilian role, he trains Sailors to qualify as C-130 flight engineers.

“Basically, I do the same thing in my civilian job and my Reserve job,” said Sims. “They go hand-in-hand and I definitely stay proficient and very current with what I do as a flight engineer. It makes things a lot easier and makes life pretty nice.”

Submitted by his unit leadership as a Reserve Sailor of the Year (RSOY) candidate, Sims said the selection process could be summed up best by the rising degree of difficulty demonstrated by the questions posed to him at the various selection boards -- Commander, Fleet Logistics Support Wing (CFLSW), Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (CNAFR), and Chief of Navy Reserve (CNR).

“At the CFLSW level, they’d just ask point-blank: ‘What’s your opinion on this policy?’” said Sims. “At the CNAFR level, they’d say ‘This is the policy. How do you, as a leader, plan to implement this policy?’ and finally, at the CNR level, they said ‘Here’s a scenario — you know the policy already — how do you plan to use this as a leader?’”

Habitually attuned to improving processes, procedures and workflow, Sims said he used the RSOY board questions as a personal diagnostic to assess and evaluate his own leadership growth.

“The CNR-level questions were very thought-provoking,” said Sims. “They made me dig down deep and look at myself as a leader and evaluate how I look at things. It really made me think — even after the fact — ‘am I doing it the right way? Is there anything that I can improve on?’ And it ultimately made me better in the long run.”

A team of senior enlisted leaders led by Reserve Force Master Chief Chris Kotz convened to hold the virtual RSOY board and ultimately made a recommendation to CNR Vice Adm. John Mustin, for the RSOY finalist.

Sims was joined by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Ronnie Heen, assigned to Force Headquarters Group, Marine Forces Reserve, during the 2020 RSOY week held virtually from May 3 to May 7, culminating in the winner’s selection during a virtual ceremony. According to Kotz, the selection was no easy task.

“I cannot stress to you the difficulty it is to measure the absolute excellence of these two Sailors,” Kotz said as part of his remarks during the virtual ceremony. “I’m so proud of the professionalism, the tenacity, the dedication that our two boards put together to render the final recommendation.”

The ceremony streamed live from the Navy Museum at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, where Mustin and Kotz were joined by the master of ceremonies, 2019 RSOY Chief Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) Amanda Rodgers. The nominees and their families joined virtually from their homes to limit travel and crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following his remarks, Kotz introduced Mustin, who reemphasized the excellence of the two finalists, particularly compared to a pool of excellent and dedicated candidates.

“What I want everyone to understand is that we have 12,000 first class petty officers in the Navy Reserve, and we’re selecting one,” Mustin said, minutes before announcing the winner. “We’ve already narrowed it down from a little over a dozen to two. And I can assure you that both of these Sailors have distinguished themselves from thousands of others who are also doing great work around the world, in every theater of the globe, in every moment in time.”

Finally, Mustin announced Sims as the winner. Sims was stunned.

“I did not expect to hear my name called,” he said. “It was a surreal experience.”

After a virtual award presentation, Sims had the opportunity to present his own remarks.

“Every Sailor that I have had an interaction with throughout my career, I’ve been able to pull a positive or constructive piece of insight from, which has ultimately helped me improve,” said Sims. “I feel that is what makes us great as a Navy, the diversity of our people … a diversity that introduces you to new and different ideas that can only guide you to improvement.”

Sims said the meticulous habits he’s cultivated over the course of his 10-year dual civilian-military aviation career naturally translates to Sailorization, mentorship, and staying on top of both short and long-term individual, team and mission objectives. For him, it all comes back to doing the little things correctly.

“If I’m not detail oriented, I put my career at risk, and I put my Sailors at risk,” he said. “So I think it’s very important to pay attention to those details, be able to account for those details and know how to deal with those details, no matter what situation you’re in.”

Sims, who will be promoted to the rank of chief petty officer during the Chief of Naval Operations Sailor of the Year ceremony at a later date, said it’s not just his award.

“This award is not for me. The RSOY is for the Sailors that have been around me throughout my career, because they are the reason I’m in this position. It’s their doing,” said Sims, who closed his remarks with advice for the next RSOY candidates. “Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. Your command has chosen you to represent them for a reason. Represent why you’re there by showing who you are.”

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