C-130H crew chief shares Mobility legacy

JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. -- During Mobility Guardian, one of the last active-duty C-130H Hercules aircraft still flies true. On the ground here, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Simkins, 36th Airlift Squadron superintendent, watches the bird from afar, reminded of its durability and legacy.


Simkins who is currently stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, flew here on Tail 74682 to participate in Exercise Mobility Guardian in the midst of an active-duty transition from the H-model to the C-130J. Both of their eras are about to come to a close and leave behind an impression in mobility history. 

Simkins entered the Air Force as a C-130H crew chief in 1989. Since then, he has been stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. He has been captivated by the C-130 his entire career.

“When I came into the Air Force, my recruiter sold me on being a C-130 crew chief,” the chief who is a native of Cheektowaga, New York, said. “He said I could put my name on the side of C-130 and travel the world. I thought it was an awesome opportunity.”

Since enlisting, Simkins has served on eight deployments and more than 20 temporary duty assignments with the airframe. Additionally, he re-trained to become a C-130 flight engineer in 2003 to stay with the airframe.

“I’ve been with it so long that it kind of feels like it has its own personality,” Simkins said. “It’s going to move for you, and it’s going to let you know when it’s sick; it’s almost like it has its own soul.”

The C-130 is important to him for many reasons. 

“The people, the community and the history are what make the aircraft so special,” Simkins said. “You can go to the worst locations, but if you have great people to work with while you’re there, you can have a great time.” 


“If you find out the history, you get attached,” he added. “When I was a crew chief, I was truly attached to my airplane. I knew the ins and outs. I loved being a crew chief. I thought it was the best job in the world.” 

Yokota AB is nearing the end of its transition to the C-130J, meaning Simkins’ time with the airframe will be coming to an end. Yet, his faith in his craft continues to shine bright as he will continue onto a new chapter in his life.

Simkins will have a permanent change of station to Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, but not before he completes a fini-flight on the anniversary of the first C-130 prototype flight.

Along the years, Simkins has helped his fellow Airmen by providing guidance.

“He’s the best mentor I’ve ever had,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott Appleby, a flight engineer previously assigned to the 36th AS. “He’s always been there for others, the same way he’s always been there for me.” 

As for Tail 74682, it will remain with the other C-130Hs at Yokota AB until the end of the J-model conversion in the near future. Since the transition began in 2016, the base has received four C-130Js.

Although Mobility Guardian focused on providing realistic training to personnel, it also allowed for closure for two Air Force entities. Their eras together may be ending, but their mark on the legacy of the C-130H and Simkins’s career will go down in mobility history.