By Staff Sgt. Carolyn Gunther , 460th Space Wing
/ Published August 21, 2006
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- At a time when most junior enlisted and junior officers were first opening their eyes, one illustrious man was walking into the Air Force recruiter's office.
On July 31, 1978, then-civilian-Mr. Rene Simard, raised his hand and made an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
Walking into boot camp with no stripes, little did he know that he would one day wear eight stripes with a star shining as a guiding beacon through the night to the Airmen of the 460th Space Wing.
"I was not your model Airman," said Chief Master Sgt. Rene Simard, 460th SW command chief. "I did not have a great attitude and most people that knew me then are surprised that I made it as far as I have."
Following in his father's footsteps, Chief Simard spent his first five years in security forces. Not being challenged and hanging out with people who didn't have a great attitude, it took his first mentor to turn him around.
Back then it was Staff Sgt. Tom Christian that took then-Airman Simard under his wing and became the most influential person in his life...and the reason Chief Simard stayed in the military.
Chief Simard then went on to cross-train into logistics plans, where he spent most of his career. At the time he retrained, he said all he knew about the career field was that it was office work, something to do with mobility, and it wasn't on the flight line guarding planes.
"The first time I had to brief a wing commander as a senior Airman, I was scared to death," shared Chief Simard. "Master Sgt. Gene Williams (my supervisor) said 'we have to go brief the wing commander and all the other O-6s and I asked 'uh, who's we?' And he said 'you're briefing.'
"I'll tell you, I was petrified. But he was always there to pick me up when I screwed up."
Marriage, focus and responsibilities guided his footsteps through Loring Air Force Base, Offutt AFB, Tonopah Test Range, Ramstein AB, Dover AFB, the Pentagon and finally, Buckley AFB.
Chief Simard had briefly worked as a wing command chief, stepping in as the interim command chief at Dover AFB, before interviewing for the position here. He had never heard of Buckley AFB before, but came here with high hopes. Being part of something new and helping it to develop was a privilege for him, he said.
One characteristic that makes Buckley AFB unique is the composition of different services.
"Col. (David) Ziegler and I have a responsibility for the whole base," said Chief Simard. "We have done a good job bringing the Guard, Reserve, Navy, Marines and Army into the game and making it even more cohesive than it was before."
Shying away from claiming anything as his project, Chief Simard commented that everyone has contributed to making Buckley AFB a stronger team. He was proud that Team Buckley has taken recognition to a new level and takes care of their people.
Colonel Ziegler, 460th Space Wing commander, says he leaned heavily on his senior enlisted adviser.
"Command chiefs live everyday at the point where people meet the wing mission," said Colonel Ziegler. "They have to believe in and bring out the best of every enlisted troop, but at the same time, make tough calls in the spirit of what WWII General Omar Bradley once said, 'You take care of the good people by taking care of the bad.' Nobody did all of these things better than Chief Simard."
"Leadership is tough," said Chief Simard, his long and lanky body folded casually into a chair. "You have to make decisions that other people dislike. You have to be able to look in the mirror and know that you've done the right thing.
"But sometimes, you have to fight to not make the decision and give someone else the opportunity," he said. "You have to let people grow and take ownership."
Colorado and the Aurora community have embraced the military like I have never seen before, said Chief Simard, sharing his reasons as to why he wants to retire in Colorado. Plus, the weather's not too shabby.
The man from just north of Boston and with a little bit of "ideer" still in him, offered some parting advice.
"Don't base decisions on emotional events because it'll change," said the command chief. "You may have a bad supervisor or not like where you're at, but it'll change. Just stay the course."
For someone who thought of leaving after his first enlistment, Chief Simard has come far. But he's not ready to say goodbye and he's definitely not walking into the sunset, never to be seen.
Just look for the tall silhouette that's casually saying, "Hey, how's it going?"