By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 23, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 23, 2012) -- Soldiers, friends and Family members came together at the Main Post Chapel Aug. 17 to pay respect to and honor a fallen Aviator.
CW4 Philip E. Baker, an instructor pilot with the 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment, died Aug. 13, but is remembered by his friends, Family and coworkers as a great Soldier and true Aviator, said Capt. Brandon Spence, commander of B Company, 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt.
"He lived his life to the fullest and touched so many people," he said during the memorial. "As I look through the kaleidoscope of his life … first and foremost, I see the husband who loved his wife, Barbara.
"I also see Phil, the friend," he continued. "He was a first-class friend to so many. He could be depended on always when you needed counsel, a shoulder to lean on or a buddy to go fishing with."
Along with being a first-class friend, Baker was also remembered as a Soldier.
Baker served in the military for more than 25 years and began his military career in 1983 when he joined the Marine Corps where he served until 1986. He then went on to Warrant Officer Candidate School and completed flight school in 1988.
"We mourn our loss, but we celebrate and honor [Baker's] service to all of us. Professionally and personally, [Phil] was a leader, a guardian, a mentor and a friend," said Lt. Col. Demetrios Nicholson, commander of the 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt. "He will be with this team forever, just as much as he will be with those he's served with over the years."
Throughout his military career, Baker has served in various assignments around the world including as a UH-1 pilot while deployed in El Salvador and Panama; a CH-47D maintenance officer at Camp Humphreys, Korea; a maintenance test pilot at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
"He's served in Central America, Korea, Europe, the U.S. and especially where a Soldier's mettle is tested -- flying combat missions above Afghanistan and Iraq," said Nicholson.
After completing his tour in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001-03, Baker attended the Instructor Pilot Course at Fort Rucker, and upon completion, began teaching Flight School XXI and the Instructor Pilot Course with B Co., 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt. He retired in June 2006, but his dedication to duty brought him back to the flight line, said Spence.
"From his early years as a Marine to his time with us here at Fort Rucker as an instructor pilot, Phil's dedication to duty was so apparent that he returned to active duty," he said.
Baker came back to Fort Rucker in 2008 to work for Army Fleet Services on Knox Army Airfield as a maintenance test pilot before coming out of retirement in 2010 to serve again as an instructor pilot for B Co., 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt.
"Philip came back to active duty to do what he did best," said Nicholson. "To teach, wing to mentor, to be a friend, to be on your left and your right, and to have your back," said Nicholson. "Soldiers, Aviators and Families that have shared in the happiness and hardships of military service know that they build bonds of grateful friendships, a special camaraderie that is hard to explain to those that have never experienced it."
That is the camaraderie that Nicholson said that the people that worked with and knew Baker shared.
"I am truly honored to have known and worked with Phil, and I'm a better person because of it," said Spence. "Thank you, Phil, for sharing your life."