My Story: Barry W. Simmonds
My story started in 1988. I was an Air Force firefighter and had the world by the tail. I loved my job, was a nationally certified emergency medical technician and was planning on making it a career. Unfortunately, during a major aircraft mishap and rescue, I was badly injured. I spent a little more than a year recovering and was informed that, because of my injuries, I could no longer be a firefighter.
My choices of a new job were slim. It had to be something I could do for a short time while my injuries kept me from reenlisting, yet which wouldn’t make my injuries worse.
I decided to give safety a try. (After all, it was related, right?) I went into the base safety office in 1990. I spent four years in the Air Force safety program and acquired a college degree to go with my degree in fire science. As it turned out, going from “responding” to “prevention” wasn’t as big of a jump as I first imagined. Knowing that by doing a good job, we might be able to prevent a mishap is a rather good incentive!
I had to leave the military in 1994, and then spent 16 years working for the OSHA program in one of the state-run programs. I had the chance to go back to serving my country when I was offered a position as the safety manager for the Army Corps of Engineers in one of its districts. Being able to serve my country and serve with my brothers and sisters in uniform was a no-brainer. I took the job and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
My district covers a large territory and has more than 650 personnel. The diverse and complicated mission of my district and the opportunity to deploy to disaster response missions and operations overseas help ensure my job skills stay sharp.
Sure, I still have the frustrations of having to fight apathy like all other safety personnel. We occasionally get folks who take a shortcut or who get into a hurry. But knowing that the work I do is critical and impacts not only the personnel I work with, but the country in general, is a great motivator.
Barry W. Simmonds
Chief of Safety and Occupational Health
St. Paul, MN