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From Jamaica To The U.S. Army
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hammond
April 8, 2024

“Jamaica taught me everything I needed to know, especially how to motivate myself,” said Sgt. Nicodea Simms.

The United States is known for its big cities, bright lights and faster pace of living, often a shock for anyone visiting, let alone immigrating permanently. Simms, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, made his adjustment from Jamaica to New York to the Army look easy.

April 4, 2024 - U.S. Army Sgt. Nicodea Simms, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 728th Military Police Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, at Fort Shafter, Hawaii ... immigrated from Jamaica to the U.S. during high school and enlisted into the Army after graduating college. (U.S. Army photo by (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hammond.)
April 4, 2024 - U.S. Army Sgt. Nicodea Simms, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist with 728th Military Police Company, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, at Fort Shafter, Hawaii ... immigrated from Jamaica to the U.S. during high school and enlisted into the Army after graduating college. (U.S. Army photo by (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Hammond.)

“Growing up in Jamaica gave me the drive I needed to graduate high school on time. The New York school system had many extra requirements and didn’t accept all of my credits from Jamaica. In Jamaica, schools’ the workloads are crazy,” said Simms smiling and laughing. “When I came to the U.S., I was placed in the 10th grade, so I packed my schedule and took all my state exams back-to-back and graduated within one year of moving here.”

Simms, with the 728th Military Police Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, learned from a very young age the importance of being independent.

“My parents traveled a lot for work, leaving for two or three months to go work in the U.S., save money, come back to Jamaica, and then leave again,” said Simms. “The U.S. had better opportunities for work. So, I wouldn’t see my parents for quite some time. I had to learn to do a lot of things on my own, for myself.”

Simms continued to reflect how this upbringing strengthened his mental toughness.

“When I saw my parents leaving to go back to work in the U.S. I didn’t want to cry and say I want to come with you,” said Simms. “No! I understand they are going to do something important for me and my family. I understood very early on that my mom and dad are working hard. We would talk every day, but I learned not to let their absence stop me from my responsibilities.”

Simms’ passion has always been education. After graduating high school early and enrolling into a nearby community college to stay close to his mom and save on college costs, he earned the distinction of Dutchess Community College Applewood Scholar and was accepted into the National Institutes of Health Bridges to Baccalaureate program.

“Once I graduated, I decided to take a year off. I began to party more. During this time, the COVID pandemic happened, and I started to notice how the country was losing morale and focus. Shortly after that, I noticed that my partying started to get in the way, like if I’m partying, I could be studying instead,” Simms said.

The COVID-19 pandemic really put a strain on many parts of the country. Things that seemed normal became a struggle. Simms reflected on this time realizing that he wanted more from himself.

“I wanted something to discipline me. I realized I can’t keep living like this; this is not what I envisioned. If I want to be successful, I can’t keep doing this,” said Simms. “Coming from Jamaica you learn, as I have said, you learn to work hard, you learn discipline, you learn how to pick yourself up and go after what you want in life.”

As Simms reflected more, he sighed, and continued.

“I didn’t come to the Army because I was in a bad spot, or because I needed it. I went to the recruiter’s office just for the information. I figured if I was going to pause my education, I’d rather do something better than what I was doing in the meantime.”

As Simms began his journey to enlist, he wanted something close in the field of his studies.

“I chose CBRN because when I heard about chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, I thought that was science. I have been doing science my whole life and I thought this would benefit me with my education,” said Simms.

“Everything worked out perfectly for me,” said Simms.

Simms, after leaving advanced individual training, began his Army career at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the noncommissioned officer in charge of CBRN as a private first-class for the 58th Military Police Company.

“Coming here and being the NCOIC as a PFC, learning to grow on my own, I told you already I learned that drive, focus and commitment while growing up in Jamaica,” said Simms laughing. “I am in charge of all this property, in charge of the CBRN program for the company, things that a sergeant or higher should be doing as PFC.”

Simms operates as the only CBRNE specialist within the company.

"CBRNE is not something that is included in our daily operations as a Military Police Company,” said Capt. Taysia Gray, commander, 58th Military Police Company. “Simms is proactive, always searching for ways to impact company operations. You will likely find him teaching other Soldiers skill level one tasks, going over weapon systems, teaching Soldiers CBRNE related tasks, or giving life advice.”

The 8th Military Police Brigade has an entire chemical company under its command, with senior CBRNE specialists. However, Simms was given the assignment that no one has filled for two years and continues proving himself.

“Everything I have done up to now lined up perfectly for me. I was excited to come here and become the NCOIC as a PFC,” said Simms. “I grabbed all my books from AIT and started to get this office together. I have never failed an inspection. I organized all of this property and manage the entire company’s CBRNE program.”

Simms, who has completed Air Assault school, won brigade and battalion Soldier of the quarter and Soldier of the year, continues to remain humble.

“I don’t really like bragging about my accomplishments,” said Simms. “I like feeling vulnerable, like someone can always beat me. It motivates me to keep driving and become better than what I did before.”

Although humbleness is a trait many strive to have, Simms’s wife, Gaelyn, feels he should brag a little sometimes.

“I love that he’s humble,” said Gaelyn. “I see a lot of Soldiers talking trash, and I have to tell him to brag about this, or he can brag about that,” said Gaelyn while laughing. “He’s accomplished so much and there’s so much for him to be proud of, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know from time to time.”

Simms recently placed 1st in the 8th Military Police Brigade Best Squad Competition, along with his fellow warfighter squad members.

“I feel like I can do anything when I put my mind to it,” said Simms. “People often tell me I must be serving for 20 years because of how I put my all into my job.”

Simms smiles and sighs. “How I grew up, I put my all into everything I do; that’s just who I am. My parents taught me that, my siblings taught me that, and growing up in Jamaica taught me that. I will always be better than me from yesterday.”

“I am so proud of my husband,” said Gaelyn. “All the obstacles and competitions helped him get out of his comfort zone. Even though he may be gone for weeks at a time, the second he comes home me and N’aziel (their 9-month-old son) are so happy to see him.

As Simms prepares to finish his bachelor's degree in health science and compete in the 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s Best Squad Competition, he looks forward and anxious for the next chapters of his journey.

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