PACAF recognizes lifetime scout
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Twenty years ago, 6-year-old Bradley Baker was told to find a specific location in the forest. Today, that doesn't seem too challenging; just grab a GPS or plug the coordinates in on the internet. But Baker wasn't afforded that luxury. Instead, he had to do things the old fashioned way - with a compass and a map.
"Things are a lot more technology oriented these days," Baker admitted laughingly, referring to the advancements of Boy Scouts of America where he serves as an assistant scout master, his 20th year of service with the organization.
While he never did admit if he found that spot in the forest, it's easy to locate the impact he's had on the Misawa scouting and Air Force communities.
Baker was recently named the recipient of the Pacific Air Forces Scouting Salutes the Military Award, which recognizes an enlisted member, grade E-4 through E-6, from each branch of the military who has displayed outstanding military service, performed a heroic deed, or demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to community service, and who has an existing or recent connection to scouting.
Baker, a senior airman and firefighter with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron, began his scouting career as a Tiger Cub and climbed the ranks to Eagle Scout in 2005 before transitioning into his current position as an assistant scout master.
Baker described scouting as "developing skills, whether it is leadership, interpersonal or outdoor; for young people to make themselves into self-reliant adults."
Baker helps oversee the progress and qualifications of 28 registered boy scouts between ages 10 and 17 during weekly meetings held through the entire year.
"It's important to instill good leadership skills when they're young instead of taking years and years like most of us," said Baker. "All of the traditional ideas of scouting still hold true -- the camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, building fires - but in order to advance you have to show leadership skills and be an active member of the troop."
Baker said his experience through BSA was extremely beneficial in assisting his transition into the Air Force.
"There are many, many skill sets I had already learned and practiced (before enlisting)," Baker said. "I have had a really good stepping stone into the Air Force.
"In boy scouts, we dealt with knot tying, first aid and how fires work, how to build them and to control them, which are some of the basic skills we do every day as firefighters."
Baker said these skills have directly helped on the job when responding to emergency calls ranging from broken bones to car and house fires.
This experience hasn't gone unnoticed at the fire station among his superiors.
"Airman Baker is one of the fire station's top Airmen," said Master Sgt. Ronald D'Aniello, 35 CES assistant chief for readiness. "He goes above and beyond both on and off duty. What he has learned (in BSA) has translated well; he's an Airman who takes initiative and shares leadership skills.
"I can definitely tell a difference between Baker and the Airmen who weren't raised through scouting," D'Aniello added.
Baker's humble approach to helping others is driven by the opportunity to pay it forward. In his seven years as an assistant scout master, it's the one ingredient that keeps him coming back.
"The biggest reason I do this is to go back and teach the youth what was taught to me," said Baker. "I try to keep things relevant and interesting for them. When you see troops apply these skills and seek out leadership positions, you know everyone is achieving their goal."
It's a process that never really ends, one that's been ingrained into Baker's being.
"Working with Airman Baker has allowed me to see his leadership aspects as well as his future potential," said Master Sgt. Timothy Walsh, 35 CES deputy fire chief. "He is an Airman first and civil engineer second. He understands the big picture of the Air Force and pays it forward to the Airmen around him."
Baker received the award at the group level, wing level and for the 5th Air Force before PACAF made the news official. He will now go on to compete at the Air Force level.