Back with the U.S. armed forces
Retired from the U.S. Air Force after a colorful and distinguished career, Sims was enjoying his laid-back life in the Happy Valley. Then his country called him – again.
Now the Edwards resident is back on active duty, stationed in Camp Andy in Qatar, a small Middle-Eastern country slightly smaller than Connecticut. Qatar is a peninsula bordering the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Sims was moved there last month from Saudi Arabia to help open the new $60 million Combined Air Operation Center, which will be used to support the air campaigns for Operation Enduring Freedom.
“After being retired and living and working in the Vail Valley in the low-voltage business, being recalled to active duty was not in my wildest dreams,” says Sims. “However, after 9/11, lots of retired military officers were looking for ways to help out. The USAF found a way to place more than 200 of us into headquarter staff positions to help ease an active-duty pilot/navigator shortage.”
Sims was asked to return in an e-mail from an old friend, now a general, with whom he’d flown B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War. Sims says he was honored and challenged the Air Force was asking him to help out “one more time” based on his previous fighter and bomber background. His wife, Bonnie, accompanied him in May 2002 to report to 8th Air Force, the famous WWII Bomber Command.
Doing his duty
Since Dec. 18, 2002, when he arrived in Saudi Arabia, Sims has been matching fighters and bombers with precision-guided weapons against mobile targets in Southern Iraq that violate U.N. resolutions. The objective, he says, is to attack only military targets and to prevent non-combatant casualties.
Sims’s Air Force roots run deep. In March 1969, he piloted a Forward Air Controller aircraft and hit mobile and fixed targets in South Vietnam. This time around, he says, he’s flying his computer and hitting the same types of targets in Iraq.
“Operation Southern Watch in Iraq has been on going for 12 years, and in my estimation the only big operational difference between Vietnam and Iraq is jungle vs. sand,” says Sims. “However, Iraq is a much greater threat to America than Vietnam.”
Sims spent three years in the late 1970s working at a NATO Command Post in the United Kingdom. Fighting a war is about the same, he says, but the technology now includes satellites, computers, the Internet and high-speed communications.
Training for his current job has taken him around the world.
“I can safely say after this first year is over I have been used to the fullest by the USAF and at a pace I never experienced in my prior years of active duty,” says Sims.
But while when it comes down to the engines of war, the good stuff never changes.
Sims flew the B-52H bomber in 1970 while training at Dayton, Ohio. That aircraft still is being used to fight the current terrorist war. The bombers were last manufactured in October 1962 by the Boeing Corporation. “Although flying a tested and proven aircraft is good, replacing our bomber fleet with up-to-date aircraft should be on someone’s list,” says Sims. “We currently have less than 175 total operational bombers (B-1, B-2, and B-52). Back in Vietnam, I dropped 108 dumb bombs every mission, but today the use of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or “smart bombs,’ has changed the effectiveness of our forces and increased our weapon’s accuracy.”
War is real
From Sims’s view at the Combined Air Operations Center, all they’re waiting for is the order from President Bush.
“For the last 12 years, the Armed Forces have enforced the U.N. resolutions in northern and southern Iraq,” says Sims. “Since my time in the theater of operations, our coalition aircraft have been in harm’s way continuously and have come under daily anti-aircraft fire, surface-to-air missiles attacks and numerous other assortments of hostile ground fire.
“It is time to finish our business at hand.”
A matter of respect
While recent CBS News/New York Times polling data finds Americans are growing impatient with Saddam Hussein – 52 percent favor giving him more time, down from 60 percent a week ago – war protesters continue their chants. That’s their right, said Sims.
But no one, he says, has the right to treat anyone like Vietnam vets were treated when they returned home.
“Protesting by groups in America is recognized by the armed forces as the right of any American, but after the decision is made to fight by the Congress and president, full support for the military is expected,” says Sims. “We should never again allow returning veterans to be treated with anything but respect for their service. Every citizen in America has a choice to join or not join the military and go into harm’s way for this country.”
The U.S. armed forces have more than 1.2 million people on active duty and more than 25 million living veterans. Sims says
military service singles them out from the general population.
“When the wars are over, the members of the armed forces need to be taken care of through adequate active-duty pay and benefits, veterans’ benefits and public support for their actions in defending this country many miles away from home,” says Sims. “This war is about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s terrorist lackeys being a threat to America. Although oil is located in Iraq, our objective is to not liberate the oil for America – the oil belongs to the Iraqi people.”
When war is a family affair
Young people from all over the country are being called to active duty. Sims says the young troops and their families must be confident in the training and equipment that have prepared them for combat, as well as trust and support the officers and non-commissioned officers who lead them.
“This is my third conflict and I have never run into an atheist in combat, so praying before the battle is a good thing for troops,” says Sims. “Military chaplains serve at all overseas bases and are an integral part of our war-fighting capability and provide special services for all of us.”
Sims suggest local families attend Vail’s next July 4th parade and salute their “sons and daughters marching in review for defending America and ensuring our way of life.”
And for the veterans honorable service after the war, Sims pointed out that the government only makes five congressional promises: a free federal burial plot; a free headstone; a United States postal flag given to the next of kin; a 21-gun salute by a military honor guard; and a bugleman playing “Taps.”
“To the 48 million men and women who, since our nation’s founding, have stepped forward to defend our land – this is enough,” says Sims. “We ask no more.”
Who is Buddy Sims?
– Lt. Col. Buddy Sims served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1962 to 1965 as an infantryman and as a command Pilot in the USAF from 1967 to 1969. – After military retirement, he was a commercial airline pilot for Presidential Airways and Pan American World Airways, as well as a Navy civilian-support contractor working on the EA-6B and V-22 aircrafts.
– Sims flew 250 combat missions during the Vietnam War as a forward air controller and 100 combat missions as a B-52D bomber pilot during the bombing of North Vietnam in 1972.
– Sims was recalled from retired status to active duty in May 2002 under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2001.
– Sims holds numerous Air Force and foreign military decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Vietnam Medal of Honor.
– Sims has more than 7,000 flight hours as pilot in military and commercial aircraft.
– Sims and his wife, Bonnie, maintain a home in Edwards and have been part-and full-time residents of the Vail Valley since 1974.
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