Story by Richard Bumgardner on 04/12/2019The world of foreign military sales can be confusing with words, acronyms and definitions that are in a world all its own. So it is no surprise that when you look up the word dedicated' in the FMS dictionary, you might find a reference to Jerry Sims, a country program manager, at U.S. Army Security Assistance Command.
In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, dedicated is an adjective to describe a person devoted to a task or purpose; having single-minded loyalty or integrity.
"That's Jerry, he's a workhorse," said Col. Michael Morton, the European Command/Africa Command director and Jerry's last boss. "He comes in early when it's quiet and before the phones start ringing, he powers through the day and he doesn't waste time. That's what I'll miss the most, his no-nonsense approach and efficiency."
After his retirement ceremony Jerry posed for photos, ate some cake and packed up his office, carrying with him several boxes of presents, awards, a flag and a special letter from a fellow Alabamian.
In the beginning
Rolling back the calendar to 1976, Sims was working as a reserve deputy and police officer, patrolling the small Alabama town of Talladega, about 50 miles east of Birmingham.
It's here in 1977 that he started looking for more stable employment and got the first of many jobs with the Army.
Twelve years of building tanks and managing projects at Anniston made him a natural selection to take on increased responsibilities, and a promotion. This time in quality assurance, working for the Tank and Automotive Command in Saudi Arabia.
"That was 1989 and an assignment I'll never forget," Sims said.
The War -
Sims had been in country for less than a year when Iraq invaded Kuwait, starting Operation Desert Storm in 1990, followed on its heels with Desert Shield in 1991.
During the war, Sims deployed to the front lines on many occasions to help solve M60A3 tank conversion and maintenance issues.
Following his time in the desert, Sims returned to Anniston as a quality assurance supervisor for the Anniston Defense Distribution Depot.
"When Defense Logistics Agency came and took over the supply and transportation missions, I didn't really have a job," he said.
So he did what many would do and applied for positions that looked promising.
From 1994-96 Sims supervised as many as 400 U.S. and Korean employees as the deputy director for Supply and Transportation Directorate, working for 8th Army in South Korea.
In all his dealings with the Army Security Assistance Enterprise, Jerry made lots of connections and soon found another promotion opportunity.
"USASAC hired me from Korea and promoted me, so I left Korea, and I took my family to Egypt in 1996," he said. "I spent 11 years working out of the Office of Military Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. That was a unique experience, first time working out of the embassy."
As Russ Neydl, the USASAC G4 (Supply and Logistics) director recounts, "Sometimes, things just work out, especially in light of the fact that we were entering a new era with computers becoming a normal part of day to day business," he said.
"At the request of the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, the OMC-Cairo and USASAC jointly developed a project plan to computerize warehouse supply and storage processes within the MOD Vehicle Department," Neydl said. "Jerry was selected for the project manager position in Egypt, primarily because of his experience in these disciplines in Korea. After arriving in Cairo, we quickly learned that he was a computer hobbyist, which made him even more valuable in his new position."
Neydl described the huge effort to overcome the many challenges in automating decades-old, Arabic-based manual processes & forms.
"At its peak, there were over 100 contractor employees working on this project in Egypt under Sims' oversight," Neydl said. "One aspect of which we were especially proud of, that Jerry worked, is that the re-warehousing effort located, identified and restocked millions of dollars of materiel that were missing from the manual inventory system - savings that actually exceeded the entire cost of the project."
In mid-2007, as the project came to a close, Neydl looked for ways to keep Sims at USASAC.
Jacqueline Williams, the deputy director of EUCOM/AFRICOM regional operations at USASAC, remembers when she first hired Sims to EUCOM, and later, how he was instrumental in helping AFRICOM build its FMS program.
"Russ Neydl, who was the G4 director (Logistics and Acquisition) at USASAC New Cumberland called me and said if you have this position open, I've got a great guy for you,'" Williams said. "So I interviewed Jerry and he got the job as my liaison officer to EUCOM, in Stuttgart, Germany. He was actually the first person I ever hired when I was promoted to supervisor."
A new combatant command
Sims had been hired as the liaison officer for USASAC at EUCOM, but things were about to change.
"I had been there (Germany) about 60 days when AFRICOM went to initial operating capability. I got a call that said tag, you are it, you've got both of them,'" Sims said.
That meant that Sims found himself suddenly having to work FMS cases for both EUCOM and AFRICOM for over two years, until a new employee could be brought in to manage EUCOM cases, and he could focus on AFRICOM.
"AFRICOM was a new command, with new staff, that didn't know what was going on in FMS," Williams said. "I really liked Jerry being over there because when he went to a meeting, he would come out and call me or send me an email. It was so detailed that it was almost like I was there. At the time, being 6-7,000 miles away, that's the kind of information I felt I needed being a new director."
The five-year rule -
It was his dedication to duty, and attention to details, that helped Jerry manage the hundreds of cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars in FMS sales, training and contracts.
But that expertise and skills learned from more than 20 years overseas, working directly with foreign military sales customers and supporting military units, couldn't protect him from the "five-year rule."
That policy was enacted in 1966 to ensure civilians had opportunities to do rotational assignments overseas to gain knowledge and skills that they would take back to their stateside commands.
Time to go home
As a highly regarded employee Sims was again offered a position at USASAC, this time to the headquarters. It would also bring him back to his home state of Alabama.
This new position allowed him to focus solely on African countries, where he was responsible for over 140 FMS cases, along with building partner capacity projects and training cases that involved the State Department. Sims was also the CPM for the countries of Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia.
Words of advice
After his departure in March, Sims reflected on his long career and offered words of wisdom for those who follow in his footsteps at USASAC.
"Don't be afraid to challenge yourself or move more than 500 miles from the nearest Walmart. Be mobile, get all the training and education you can get, protect your organization and leadership. It might be clich, but live the Army values. To those I would add to be honest and have humility," he said.
Ms. Williams knew when she said goodbye, it was not only to a friend and colleague, but to a vast storehouse of knowledge gained over decades of FMS exposure.
The career experience that Sims gained over 42 years, working all aspects of the Army Security Assistance Enterprise, from WG-05 to GS-9 thru GS-14, with early stints as a wage grade employee and supervisor, in seven different job series, would be greatly missed.
"Jerry knew his job and knew quite a lot of other folks' jobs too," Williams said. "He could tell you regulation and laws associated with any decision or case we ran across. He could do so many jobs. He would have been great in policy, a great liaison officer, and he could have worked at Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or at the Pentagon. It's a tremendous loss to the organization."
The parting gift
As Jerry walked out of USASAC headquarters, bldg. 4402, he carried with him a letter, a special gift from a fellow Alabamian. Signed by Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, it spoke about Jerry's 42 years of dedicated service.
Talk to anyone who has known Jerry Sims and ask them to describe him in one word, they say dedicated.