Why I do what I do

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vinson Simmons
  • 381st Intelligence Squadron
When I entered the Air Force nearly 26 years ago, I needed a job and an education, and knew the Air Force could provide me that opportunity. I was going to do my four years and get out.

My circumstances changed. I stayed for the job security and benefits that it would provide my family. Somewhere along the way, I became committed to the Air Force, my leadership and my Airmen. I knew this is where I belonged. Circumstances have kept me here, dictated my career and provided me some awesome opportunities.

One of the greatest opportunities was first sergeant duty. Early in my career, my only interactions with first sergeants were less than pleasant. First sergeants assigned details and doled out punishment. You definitely didn't want to be called to the shirt's office.

I learned the first sergeant was human when the shirt and I deployed to Desert Storm together - just the two of us. He took me under his wing and made sure I was taken care of and got me where I needed to be. The first sergeant who stands out and was my inspiration in seeking out this opportunity is retired Senior Master Sgt. Marv Jackson. Sergeant Jackson put folks at ease and let you know he was there if you needed him. You also knew that he was there to take care of business. I knew that this was what I wanted to do and headed directly to the command chief's office after being given the green light by my leadership. After an interview, formal application, shadowing other first sergeants, and being interrogated by a panel of first sergeants, a commander and the command chief, I found myself thrust into the first sergeant's seat waiting for a school date.

I truly love my job. It is absolutely the best job in the Air Force. I get to interact with the young Airmen daily. I enjoy the opportunities I have to affect change and to help with everything from minor personnel issues to emergency situations. It's all because I know I'm making a difference in someone else's life.

I came into this business with the attitude that I could "fix them all." While shadowing in the training environment, I saw a lot of trainees make civilian below the zone. Being naïve, I believed that if I could have them for a little while, I could "fix them."

Five months, four courts martial and two alcohol related deaths into my tenure, I realized that I can't fix them if they don't want to be fixed. That hasn't dissuaded me from giving my all, however trying it may be at times.

Helping Airmen doesn't always mean giving them what they want or even retaining them in the Air Force. Sometimes, it means assisting them with a smooth transition to the civilian sector. There is nothing more disheartening than when I can't salvage an Airman that has chosen the wrong road. The positive side is there are plenty of Airmen to restore my faith.

I've been blessed with being selected to be a first sergeant and even more blessed that I have the opportunity to serve in this great Air Force. I only hope I can leave a lasting impression and have a positive impact on the Airmen entrusted to my care. After all, my job is people.