While kicking off a new season of training, Fort Gordon’s Navy Information Operations Command took time to remember one of their own at the Pointes West Army Resort marina.
On June 23, 2013, Billy Sims, Jr., an ensign attached to the command, died while swimming with friends at the Augusta Sailing Club in Appling.
Saturday morning, with petty officers, the chief’s mess, wardroom personnel and their family members in attendance, the command planted a tree in Sims’ memory.
Capt. Jim Brokaw, NAVIOCOM commanding officer, said the wardroom was planting a maple tree in honor of Sims.
“Billy was just a young man, just really beginning life and beginning his career in the Navy, and we thought a young tree would do well to represent Billy’s spirit,” said Brokaw. “It will grow as Billy would have grown, mature, and eventually it will provide shade and cushion to other of God’s creatures, which I think Billy would have wanted.”
Cryptologic Technician Technical Chief Steven Haefcke said Sims left an impression on the command and the tree will hold special meaning.
“Even though we’re not going to have a plaque or a sign up for this tree, it’s something we will know,” Haefcke said. “It’s going to be a lasting memory for all of us.”
Before the tree planting, the assembled throng spent time painting an 18,000-pound anchor at the marina that was delivered from Gulfport, Miss., in July. It was part of training called CPO 365, a yearlong training process for first class petty officers to make the next rank up to chief petty officer.
“You can’t tell who’s who and that’s what I like,” said command master chief Larry Howard. “You’ve got the wardroom here, first classes and the chief’s mess all here interacting and building and strengthening the leadership team.”
Haefcke likes that the Navy will have a heightened presence in the community with the anchor.
“We’re doing a lot of good things out in the community, now every time people come out to Pointes West to have a day with their family, they’ll be able to see an anchor and learn a little about the heritage of the U.S. Navy,” said Haefcke.