Jerry Sims has one of those jobs that prepared him well for "Survivor."
Sims, 49, a York native now in Rock Hill, is one of 16 contestants on the popular CBS reality series, which returns for its 18th installment tonight (8 p.m., CBS).
He'll mark 27 years of service in the S.C. National Guard this year, an experience that he says came in handy during taping of the show, set in the Brazilian highlands.
"The military teaches us a lot of outdoor survival skills and I've developed a skill to relate to anybody," says Sims, a first sergeant in the 1222 Engineering Battalion in Rock Hill.
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Sims says to be successful in "Survivor," which offers a $1 million prize to the winner, you need physical ability, mental strength and social skills.
"You can be a Hulk Hogan-type person, but if you don't have social skills, you're not going to last too long."
Sims grew up on a chicken farm and was one of 10 children in his family. He graduated from York Comprehensive High School in 1978. He and his wife of 25 years, Valerie, have two grown children. His full-time job is operations specialist at Duke Energy's Catawba Nuclear Station.
He's been in a couple amateur stage productions at his church, Faith Bible Church in Pineville, but never on television, much less on one of TV's 10 most popular shows.
The taping in Brazil took place in the fall, which caused contestants a minor problem: They couldn't find out who won the presidential election while on location. Sims, who voted absentee, says they got the news afterward.
Sims recently completed a year tour of Afghanistan, where he led a unit of about 100 training Afghan soldiers in Kabul.
Was that experience useful in the game?
"It was 'Survivor,' but a different survivor. You got the bad guys trying to take you out, so you have to use different survivor skills."
Reason to watch: Spectacular eye candy of the Brazilian rain forest.
Basics: Yes, let's get pronunciation out of the way before it drives you nuts (as it did me). It's "To-can-cheens." This is a landlocked state east of the geographic center of Brazil -- remote and extremely wild, even by "Survivor" standards.
What the boss says: That'd be our old friend Jeff Probst, who has gleefully tortured contestants over 18 editions. In an e-mail, he said, "Tocantins will go down as a 'great' 'Survivor' season primarily due to our contestants. Some of the standouts include Coach (Ben Wade, Montana soccer coach), JT (James Thomas, cattle rancher), Stephen (Fishbach, former MTV exec, NYC corporate consultant), Tyson (Apostol, former pro cyclist), Sierra (Reed, L.A. model), Taj (Johnson-George, a former member of the band SWV), Brendan (Synnott, a multimillionaire who sold Bear Naked Granola to Kellogg's), to name a few."
Bottom line: While Probst almost always uses the word "great" to describe any season, his clues do sound intriguing. Blindsides? Desolation? Destruction? Ranchers, models and Naked Granola guys? Sounds like fun. I'm onboard.
-- Verne Gay, Newsday