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    A passion for helping airmen pays off for senior noncommissioned officer

    LINCOLN, Neb. – One role of a first sergeant is to provide open lines of communication for enlisted personnel and help support airmen struggling through difficult situations at home station and while deployed.

    To successfully operate in this position, a first sergeant should demonstrate a passion to help airmen grow as individuals in their daily lives and in developing a mission-ready enlisted force.

    Former first sergeant of the Mission Support Group, Master Sgt. Mary A. Baker, the 155th Air Refueling Wing Force Support Squadron’s Services Flight superintendent, demonstrates selflessness, a desire to serve others, and continues to advance her knowledge by seeking opportunities within the guard.

    Baker said she is passionate about helping airmen, and the proof is in her work. In 2011, she was instrumental in helping 12 unit members attend and graduate from in-residence Professional Military Education and made an effort to attend all of their graduations.

    In a three-month period, Baker helped eight of the unit’s families cope with the deaths of unit members or family members. She also coordinated a flight with a local aircraft company to have a terminally ill unit member flown back to Nebraska from the National Guard Bureau.

    Baker is on the Diversity Committee where she advises the state’s adjutant general on diversity issues concerning the 155th ARW. For her work in diversity, she was awarded the Nebraska Excellence in Diversity Award. She is also member of the Home Care Committee, she helps in administering the child care program for drill weekends.

    In her off-duty time Baker visits airmen and their family members who are hospitalized and makes certain to provide a baby bundle from Airmen and Family Readiness, when a unit member’s family has a baby.

    Thanks to her service before self attitude and her guard community involvement in fiscal year 2011, Baker was selected to receive the Noncommissioned Officer Academy Graduate Association Outstanding Graduate of the Year Award. She was given the option of how and where she would receive the award and she elected to receive the award in front of her peers during the 155th ARW’s November Unit Training Assembly at the NEANG base.

    “It would mean more to me to have it in front of my airmen, because that is who I served to get this in the first place,” said Baker.

    Baker was nominated for this award by Chief Master Sgt. Doug Schulz, and was presented the award Nov. 3, by Col. Keith Schell, commander of 155th ARW, and Maj. Gen. Judd Lyons, Nebraska’s adjutant general. She said she credited receiving the award to the 155th ARW’s standard of perfection and spoke of the culture within the unit.

    “I think we have a culture here in our unit where we see this as doing our job and in other units, I think that is always viewed as going above and beyond,” said Baker. “We have such a high standard here at the 155th, that I think I was doing what I needed to do for my airmen, others would say, ‘no, you went above and beyond.’ In my mind’s eye, I think I just did what I should have done.”

    “In our unit, we have very high standards and a very high work ethic,” Baker added. “We just have that standard here and it is a little bit higher than others.”

    Baker faced some extraordinary challenges during fiscal year 2011 in a short period of time and rose to meet those challenges with success.

    “I had to deal with a lot of things that a lot of first sergeants don’t probably deal with in such rapid succession, so that is probably why my packet to some degree raised above some of the others,” said Baker. “I was thrown into some situations where I had to do some extraordinary stuff. Not because I chose to but because it had to be done.”

    Baker said her dedication to the unit and serving young NCOs and airmen has been one of her main focuses throughout her career. She said she is motivated by helping people reach that “ah-ha moment” and to grow in mind, body, spirit and mission.

    She said she is honored and humbled to receive this award and be recognized for the time and effort she has devoted to the men and women of the 155th ARW.

    “It was a huge honor to be put in for something like this, whether you get it or not,” said Baker. “It’s very humbling to a large degree, because you realize that other people have noticed that you are doing a lot.”

    Baker enlisted in the Nebraska Air National Guard in January 1989. She worked in the Photo Processing and Interpretation Facility, processing photos taken by the RF-4 Phantom until the unit’s mission transitioned to aerial refueling. Then, she became one of the original 12 traditional in-flight refueling specialists, commonly known as “boom operators,” for the KC-135R Stratotanker with the 173rd Air Refueling Squadron. In 2001, after seven years as a boom operator, Baker transitioned into a traditional role in the 155th ARW’s Finance Office. Baker accepted a position as an accounting technician, specializing in travel pay, in 2003. Baker left the finance office to become a first sergeant in 2008 and remained in that position until she accepted the job as the Services superintendent in 2011.

    During her career, Baker was an Airman Leadership School instructor and was a certified Quality Instructor. She occupied many roles and positions in the NEANG and said she is always willing to try something new and take risks.

    Baker has dedicated nearly 24 years to the unit and demonstrates a revolving door mentality where change is constant. Her advice to unit members is simple.

    “Be willing to try something new and be brave enough to step out,” said Baker. “Have a little bit of risk taking ingenuity in yourself. If you want to do something different or more challenging, don’t be afraid to seek out those opportunities.”

    Baker’s career demonstrates the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. Early in her career, she focused on developing her own career and investing in the lives of airmen in the NEANG. As her family grew, her focus gradually shifted to working primarily on the home front assisting young airmen with their own personal development and military careers.

    “It’s been a gradual process,” said Baker. “When I was a first sergeant, I wanted to stay home and focus on taking care of my airmen at home because I know when they deploy, it is hugely important that they know things are taken care of at home. I saw my role as a first sergeant was helping them maintain their home front as much as possible.”



    Date Taken: 11.04.2012
    Date Posted: 06.03.2013 16:44
    Story ID: 107994
    Location: LINCOLN, NE, US 

    Web Views: 16
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    A passion for helping airmen pays off for senior noncommissioned officer