With humble roots extending from Charleston, West Virginia, to Fayetteville, North Carolina, Sgt. Jonathon Baker, a senior satellite communications controller with Delta Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, U.S. Army Satellite Operations Brigade, never imagined doing what he is now just four short years ago.
Before joining the military, he worked a grocery store distribution job where he began as a forklift driver and worked his way up to a clerk and lead trainer. Realizing even the upper management positions weren’t going to cut it for him though, he decided to join the Army at age 26.
Baker recently competed in SMDC’s Best Warrior competition in Colorado Springs, Colorado, placing second in the noncommissioned officer category. I sat down and spoke with him shortly before the competition ended.
Q: Can you talk a bit about the transition from your previous line of work to the military?
A: I was working at Food Lion Distribution for seven years. It started out as pretty vigorous manual labor – loading trucks, driving trucks, and into being a manager of sort. I was forced into that blue collar role because I had no schooling or experience in anything else. So, I was working up that corporate ladder and I saw what the top was, and it didn’t even pay all that well. In time, I grew to realize I wanted more, and Food Lion couldn’t facilitate that. I joined the Army to gain technical skills and was fortunate to get 25 Sierra (satellite communications controller military occupational specialty). It’s been a gateway for me to do better things, and the best decision I have ever made.
Q: Why did you go into the Army career field you are in?
A: One of my wife’s friend’s husbands was active duty and he transitioned from 11 Bravo (infantry) to 25 Sierra, and traditionally, because I was doing all this blue-collar work, I am hard-nosed, and thought I’d join the infantry as well, but he told me not to go into that and into something I can use in the outside world. It’s awesome the opportunities the Army provides you with. I go from picking up groceries to learning about signal flow and satellite control.
Q: So now you are stationed in Hawaii – your first duty station. How has it been?
A: I put Hawaii as my number one choice duty station because when else am I going to get to live there for a few years? It seems divine the way things have progressed and worked out for me, because when I joined initially, I thought, imagine getting stationed in Hawaii – that would be great – and then getting it was unreal. It’s been a blessing. You get there and you are just shocked with the beauty of it all. The mountains and ocean and in the winter the big waves on the North Shore that surfers come from world-over to ride – it’s amazing.
But the fact that our youngest kid was under a year old when we got there, it was difficult to get out and see a lot of sights, and we have our hand’s full with the two other kids at ages four and seven. Then the pandemic came along, and we couldn’t leave the island, so it’s been kind of hard on the family.
Q: Do you know where you are headed to for your next duty station?
A: Tampa, Florida. I am leaving soon. Now the kids will be able to visit their grandparents, so we are looking forward to that.
Q: Why did you go out for Best Warrior?
A: It was a way to separate myself from my peers initially when I started doing competition boards. The boards evaluate the total Soldier aspect like PT (physical training), intellect, etc. I like that. I work in a very technical-based job and I’m not necessarily a technically oriented person, so this gave me an opportunity to show my peers that I can be smart and strong. It’s fulfilling and I am 110 percent a competitor. I like the idea of Best Warrior and learning new skills. There are things I have gotten to do here I have never done and never would have done had I not gone out for this.
Q: How do you think you did in the competition?
A: Okay. I had some issues with rifle qualification. My weapon double fed and I didn’t qualify. It was a lesson learned. That will probably cost me the win. But the idea is to increase your mental resiliency. I can take the blue collar work I have done in the past and apply it here. The work I used to do was very monotonous. You had to remove any feelings you had and just grind it out just like a robot. That in itself is a skill. You can apply that same mentality with some of the events in the competition.
Q: What has been the best part of your time in the Army thus far?
A: Working with Soldiers. Not just on the technical level but passing on life skills and teaching them to embrace what they have in the Army. If this is where they are starting, then they really have it lucky. I tell them this because I wasn’t so fortunate.
Baker wishes to make a career out of the military and to be a first sergeant someday.
|Date Posted:||07.22.2021 10:15|
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