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CMSgt. Simanski: The Exit Interview

  • Published
  • By A1C Nia Jacobs
  • Air Force Global Strike Command

After 36 years of active and reserve duty, 15 assignments and multiple achievements, Chief Master Sergeant Andrew W. Simanski, the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Command Chief, Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, has retired from military service. Before his departure, Simanski reflected on his time in service and offered advise for future Air Force leaders.

When did you decide you wanted to stay in the Air Force long term?

In 1996, I think I had enough moving around for the first nine years of my Air Force career and decided to continue to serve, but as a Reservist. I’ve served in numerous reserve statuses since then.

What was the most impactful lesson you learned during your time in service?

It was about eight years into my active duty career when my Command Chief and career field functional called and told me I has been selected to be an instructor at the intel school house. Back in those days, there wasn’t a “deliberate development” process; it was more the wisdom of the Command Chiefs and functionals doing what they thought was right.  

Back then I was a little more stubborn, and really didn’t like being told what to do. I probably would have been a little more open to the idea had there been more discussions with me. I decided to decline the assignment and separate from active duty. Luckily, another Chief tapped me on the shoulder and told me I should consider becoming a Reservist. I’m glad I listened to that Chief.

What I didn’t know at the time was that in my career field, which only numbers about 300, the path to becoming a Chief was to go to the intel school house, teach the next generation of intel professionals, build out your network, and as you get promoted, the Airmen you taught would be your network of future technical and master sergeants that will be working for you in key positions.

It was years later before I realized what my Command Chief and functional were trying to do for me then as a young Staff Sergeant.

Is there anything you wished you had learned sooner rather than later?

In a recent initial feedback session with a senior leader I asked what would success look like for the position he just hired me into. He told me to focus on one part of the job that I was most passionate about, and let your tenure be defined by your expertise and passion for executing that component of the mission.

Needless to say, he expected me to execute other parts of the mission as well, but I was not expected to execute 100% on every aspect of the mission. This may seem counter-intuitive to the way we have been raised in the Air Force, but here’s the point. We will never be able to do 100% of jobs and or the missions we are assigned, especially in this age of “doing more with less”.

Focus on the really important components of your job that you are most passionate about, and do them extraordinarily well. As you execute your primary part of your job, you’ll find the time and energy to tackle the second-tier tasks of your job too.

Then the question becomes, what about those things left on your “to do” list? Be honest with yourself on whether they need to be done or not. Is it more important to stay at work a few extra hours to get something done, or to go home at a reasonable hour, make time to exercise, and have dinner with the family? My belief is the Air Force will be better off because you exercised, spent time with family, and got a good night sleep versus working extra hours to get some meaningless task done.

What advice would you give to new Airmen?

At all levels of being a Chief, including being a Command Chief, we are always thinking about talent management, deliberate development, and pushing the right talent forward. We don’t always do it right, we may not always correctly explain our intentions, we may fail to articulate a good long-range vision and we may have several other competing priorities on our plates. What I’d like Airman, and any level, to take away is our number one priority is taking care of our Airmen, taking care of boss, and doing trying to make the absolute best decisions for our Air Force!

What was the best part of being a leader in the U.S. Air Force?

As my tenure as Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Headquarters Eighth Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), and then as Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Force Global Strike Command, Barksdale draws to an end, I can honestly say these last three years have been the most rewarding years of my entire Air Force career. There are not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to say everything I’d like to about the Airmen of striker nation, and the leadership teams at both 8th Air Force and AFGSC.

That is not the main point. What I’d like futures leaders, especially Total Force Integration Chiefs considering assignments anywhere in the striker nation enterprise, to take away is that leaders will come and go, but the foundation and culture the striker nations leaders have built is second to none in the Air Force. The future of Air Force Global Strike Command, especially with the B-21 and Sentinel weapon systems coning online, will ensure AFGSC continues to be the most lethal fighting force the world has ever known!

How do you think your military career will affect your life going forward?

The interesting twist on this question is that this is my second retirement, and I’m nearly four years into my third career. In 2019, I retired from government civilian service, and began working a dream job as a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia.

My civilian career and my job at DARPA would not have happened without my military career. Each job, career choice, and opportunity I’ve had over my career was predicated by my military career. From something as simple as being granted an initial security clearance early in my Air Force career to recently serving a once in a lifetime assignment in Stuttgart, Germany, as a government civilian would not have been possible without my military career.

Retiring from the Air Force with 36 years of service is not the end, but just the closing of a chapter in my life. There are many other chapters of this book still to be written!