OTF Soldier Story for February 28, 2011 - Sgt. Simon Baum
Current Unit: 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
Current Position: Squad Leader
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Fort Bragg, N.C.
Hometown: Saginaw, Mich., and Dayton, Ohio
Years of Service: 5
For Sgt. Simon Baum, there is no thrill quite like serving on the frontlines. Since enlisting in 2006, life as an infantryman has fulfilled Baum’s desire to serve his country and satisfied his need for adventure, though his call to duty has not been without its challenges. Despite overcoming a severe injury in 2007 and later becoming the father of triplets, the Soldier has never compromised his commitment to his country or his responsibilities at home.
Following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the military was a lifetime goal for Baum, though he briefly entertained other career options.
“After high school, I didn’t want to join the Army right away so I went to college instead. For a few years after college, I worked at my father-in-law’s company, but the thought of sitting behind a desk for the rest of my life didn’t really appeal to me,” he said. “I knew I needed to find direction and I remembered my desire to serve in the military.”
Baum joined the Army in 2006 and deployed to Afghanistan later that year as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division. Although he knew it was a dangerous job, it was what he wanted to do.
“I liked the infantry tactics and the idea that I am at the front of the fight, actually doing combat missions rather than just supporting them,” he said.
While out on a patrol mission in June 2007, an improvised explosive device detonated near Baum’s convoy, and he sustained multiple serious injuries, including a broken wrist, fractured fibula and torn cartilage in his knee. After arriving stateside for further medical treatment, he was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.
In December 2007, just before his comrades returned from Afghanistan, Baum was transferred to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., and worked tirelessly to avoid a medical discharge. Anxious to serve again on the frontlines, he was committed to making a full recovery and returning to his unit.
“When I was initially injured, I struggled with the thought of deploying again to Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said. “But as I recovered, I realized I wanted to stay in the military and serve my country.”
After an arduous recovery, Baum was able to rejoin his unit in early 2009, and by August, he and other members of Task Force Fury were on their way back to Afghanistan. During his recovery, he was promoted and would serve overseas as a team leader.
Yet Baum’s pre-deployment training could not prepare him for one transition that he would face throughout the course of his year-long deployment: becoming a father. Just two days before he left for Afghanistan, Baum and his wife learned that they were expecting triplets.
Just a few months into the deployment, however, Baum received a call to return to Michigan for the premature birth of his daughters. Although he was able to be in the delivery room for all three births, he returned to the battlefield just weeks after their birth. However, when the opportunity presented itself for Baum to serve with the rear detachment at Fort Bragg, N.C., Baum took the job—he was still able to serve with his unit, but it also allowed him to help his wife care for their infant daughters.
“Before my girls were born, it wasn’t a huge deal if I had to work late or be out in the field. But once we had the girls, we had to completely readjust our priorities as a family,” he said. “It wasn’t until I came home on emergency leave and saw my daughters that I realized that my life had changed.”
Baum lives with his family in the Cameron, N.C., area. In the future, he would like to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) and serve as an officer.
“I want to take what I’ve learned in the Army so far, and lead as an officer. I like being at the front of the fight, not just supporting it from behind,” he said. “In the Army I feel like I’m doing something with my life. I love my job and my family, and I’m willing to sacrifice time away from my family rather than have something like 9/11 happen again.”