US Army, First Sergeant. Joseph Baker, Ret., ‘03

Baker working with one of his drones in Texas

Major: Criminal Justice

Hometown: Syracuse

Military service has shaped Joseph Baker’s life. He initially came to OCC to study Criminal Justice, while working as a corrections officer before leaving school and work to enlist in the Army as an Airborne Infantryman in 1993. At age 26 he was older than the typical recruit and more was expected of him. Baker served as part of peace keeping missions in Kuwait, Egypt and Guantanamo Bay before becoming a recruiter in 2001.

That same year, Baker returned to OCC in time for the fall semester to continue pursuing his Criminal Justice degree. Less than a month into the semester the terror attacks of September 11 happened. “I had just left my early morning English class and gotten in my pickup truck when I turned on the radio and heard the news. I raced down to the recruiting station and turned on the TV as the second plane was flying into the tower. I knew we were going to war and remembered telling everyone there the world had just changed forever.”

Baker’s prior military service coupled with his age brought another perspective to classroom discussions in the weeks and months after 9/11. “As an older student with Army experience I found I brought a different viewpoint to conversations.” Baker continued to juggle his recruiting duties with his course work and found Criminal Justice Professor Donna Stuccio to be instrumental in his success. “She treated me like an adult. She was aware of my situation and always made sure I was taking the necessary courses to graduate.”

Baker earned his degree in 2003. Upon completing his time as a recruiter Baker returned to his unit at Fort Hood where he would serve an additional 13 years (23 total) in active duty. During that time, he did three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Baker rose to the rank of First Sergeant and was awarded four Bronze Stars, three Meritorious Service Medals and a pending Purple Heart commendation for his valor in the line of duty while serving on the front lines. He left the Army after 26 years of service and went on to complete his bachelor’s degree in Administrative Management too.

Baker with his family

As Baker reflects on his life he is reminded of both the importance of getting an education and how fragile life is. “I always championed education to my kids, and having my degree from OCC was my way of proving to them that you shouldn’t let anything stand in your way. Also, it’s important to enjoy life and appreciate it each day. Seeing some of my best friends not come back from war put an emphasis on this.”

Baker resides in Texas where he recently completed his bachelor’s degree. He has started his own business, Sky Soldier Drones, LLC which specializes in the use of drone technology for construction, agriculture and other purposes.

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