Baker reflects on life, service
September 14, 2011
Attaining the top rank as the U.S. Army Contracting Command's senior enlisted advisor wasn't initially Tony L. Baker's ambition.
Even as a teen, the future ACC command sergeant major demonstrated an enterprising spirit and drove a school bus on two routes while still in high school.
"Believe it or not, when I first went to drive a bus, I had never driven a clutch," Baker recalled. "But I had it in my mind … that I could do this if I really put my mind to it."
It was this strong work ethic and discipline instilled in him by his parents that would serve him well in the military.
But a career in the Army would wait and Baker enrolled in the local community college immediately following graduation from high school. To help pay his way through school, the High Point, N.C. native secured a fulltime job with one of the city's manufacturing plants.
"Being a fulltime student and holding a fulltime job was pretty hard," he recalled. And during the summer break, after seeing some of his former friends and classmates home from college or on military leave, Baker re-evaluated his goals and objectives.
Back at the factory, the lanky youth saw "folks" two or three times his age and he wondered whether he could sustain working in that same factory for the next 20-30 years.
"Where could I grow?" he said. "Where could I go?"
Certainly, Baker was advancing at the factory. Management enjoyed "the young energetic kid that was always ready to do their bidding, to do whatever they wanted done in the factory."
But it wasn't enough and Baker enlisted in the Army.
"I had experience driving a bus and was interested in doing something in the transportation arena," he said. "Watercraft operator just seemed interesting. So, I joined. It was just one of those MOSs (military occupational skills) I embraced."
He later confessed that the recruiter's description of the job and fishing on a waterway somewhere did seem rather enticing.
Not one to stand still and after several tours as a watercraft operator, the young "buck sergeant" saw an opportunity to advance his career and volunteered for drill sergeant duty.
"That was virtually unheard of in our career field," Baker said. "And initially, my packet was disapproved."
He attributed this to an extensive application process which usually reserved selections for the more veteran NCOs.
Undeterred, he reapplied, was accepted and graduated in the top ten percent of his class. Interesting enough, Baker said this assignment took him back to the school where he completed his advanced individual training only a few years earlier.
"I felt that was quite an accomplishment considering I was still a young buck sergeant, still learning about the Army," he said.
There, Baker learned even more and became skilled in all the other transportation specialties offered by the Army. This would later benefit him as he progressed through the ranks.
His tour as a drill sergeant completed and after several subsequent tours as a watercraft operator, now Sgt. 1st Class Baker was surprised to be picked up as a recruiter.
"The barracks lawyers advised me that I didn't have to do it because I had already served on a hard tour. I had served as a drill sergeant," he said. "But that wasn't my way -- and I completed the tour, did what I had to do… eventually earning the gold badge, the recruiter ring and the Glen E. Morrell recruiting medallion."
He likened each assignment to Zig Zigler's antidote about "the dog sitting on a nail, moaning and groaning."
Baker retold the story how a dog has been sitting on a nail for quite some time and wouldn't get up. All it would do was moan and groan all day. Had the dog just gotten up, the nail could have been removed and his suffering would have ended.
"Some people are just like that. They don't want to get up and do anything but moan and groan," he explained. "They just want someone to come over and fix it for them when they can get up and do it themselves."
Baker attributes this "can-do, will-do" attitude coupled with each subsequent assignment that followed that has made him the leader he is today.
As the ACC's top enlisted Soldier, he is especially proud of the instrumental role he played in creating command sergeant major positions at the nominative level.
It's open to our contracting noncommissioned officers and is one in which they can now strive for, Baker said. "Introducing the command sergeant major program to 51-Charlies (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Contracting NCO) is a big step in the right direction."
Baker will relinquish his position to Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Murray at a noon change of responsibility ceremony, Sept. 20, at the Army Community Activity Center, building 3711, on Redstone Arsenal.
"Command Sgt. Maj. Murray is a good fit because he's been with the ECC (Expeditionary Contracting Command) the same amount of time I've been with the ACC," he said. "He knows the contracting mission. He knows what's next for contracting and, at the end of the day; he is the best person for this position."
Baker's next assignment will be as a command sergeant major with the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.