Written by Staff Sgt. Rick Branch
160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne)
Fort Campbell, KY – When Staff Sgt. Joseph Simms donned his maroon beret after completing Enlisted Green Platoon-Combat Skills, he never expected a few years later to see another member of his family experience it. His son Pvt. Charlie Shaw changed that when he graduation from Enlisted Green Platoon, February 18th, 2014, at Cole Parks Commons.
“I never expected back then that a few years later I’d watch one of my kids graduate through Green Platoon,” beamed Simms. “Charles has always liked the Army and been exposed to the regiment from a few visits here and there … he really liked what he saw.”
Simms, 42, from Sylvester, GA, is one of a growing number of Soldiers witnessing family members follow in their footsteps by becoming second generation Night Stalkers. Often the younger family member joins many years after the senior member has left the organization, but on rare occasions, they serve together.
“It’s great, a real treat to have him working here in the unit with me,” Simms said. “We’ve talked about him coming here a lot after I knew it was really going to happen. I let him know right off the bat that he’s his own guy and I wanted to make sure he’s given that opportunity to represent himself on his own accord.”
Shaw, 19, from Clarksville, Tennessee, said he was slowly getting exposed to life in the 160th SOAR (A) through occasional visits, books, movies, and discussions with his dad. Those moments helped influence his decision to don the maroon beret as a Night Stalker.
“I’ve always wanted to join since I was real young,” he said. “As I got older, I started leaning toward that goal with a higher sense of honor and pride.”
Those aspirations helped push Shaw to pursue a career in Special Operation aviation. Once his mind was set to join the aviation field, he attempted to keep his desire to join the 160th SOAR (A), a secret from his Night Stalker father.
“I told him I was thinking about joining the 101st CAB (Combat Aviation Brigade), but I was really going to try out for the 160th SOAR (A),” Shaw said. “I met the SOAR recruiter after I completed basic training and was in advanced individual training … then found myself here for Green Platoon.”
Once he arrived to Green Platoon, Shaw was exposed to the rigorous training aspiring Soldiers looking to join the regiment must experience. From water survival to escape and evade training, the second generation Night Stalker had to do it all in his journey to be a Night Stalker.
“I knew all my skills were going to be put to the test,” Shaw said. “I quickly learned that you have to push your body to its limits and surpass it to join this unit.”
Despite having a Soldier father, Shaw was never given any insider information as his father wanted the experience to be original and not ruined in any way.
“I didn’t want to take away from the experience of what it’s like to go through Green Platoon,” Simms said. “I did tell him to keep his stuff together and be ready at a moment’s notice. I also had the opportunity to watch him go through Black Day.”
Simms explained that Black Day is a grueling day long experience during Enlisted Green Platoon where Soldiers have each of their physical and mental skills put to the test.
“I know it’s a day ALL Night Stalkers remember and will never forget,” he said. “I can say that he may have received a “little” extra attention, but I knew he was up to the task … I was proud to see him gut it out.”
Although Shaw is called a second generation Night Stalker, in reality he’s a third generation Soldier. Simms’s father served in the U.S. Army back in the 1960s.
Not many are privileged to serve with their kids. Not many have the opportunity to take a lunch break and work out with their kids. Simms , proud of his son, has a few things he’s looking most forward to experiencing with Shaw .
“The other day he asked me how to shape his beret, knowing I had to do the same for mine a few years back,” he said. “It’s really all those small things that I’ll enjoy the most. Getting to show and teach Shaw how to do those little details, which are important to establishing good Army habits throughout a Soldier’s career.”
When asked together what it’s like to serve in the regiment, both agree that it’s a blessing and creates that special bond shared only among family members to strive to do better and push each other, all while living the Night Stalker motto of never quitting when things get tough.