Dawn Baker, Lt. Col. USAF, Active Duty
Dawn White was born at Blanchard Valley Hospital in 1970, to parents Doug and Vickie. She was the middle child sandwiched between older brother Doug and younger brother Brian. She considers herself as a country girl as North Baltimore Ohio where she was raised was a farming community of only 3000 people.
Dawn attended North Baltimore High school where she was active in sports, playing basketball, volleyball and running track. She was a friendly outgoing student who got along well with everyone but did not seek to be the center of attention. Dawn had plans to attend college right after graduation in 1988 but put those plans on hold to join her boyfriend, James Baker, who was a Marine stationed in California. She left Ohio the day after her 18th birthday. They married and Dawn welcomed her first-born son Joshua a year later.
In 1993 the couple, now out of the service and living in North Baltimore Ohio, added their son Connor to the family. The job market at that time were tough and money was tight. “I knew that my children deserved a better life than we were living. I also wanted to get away from the small-town mentality. I had always loved the Air Force and I enjoyed the opportunities that we had when my husband was in the military so for me the Air Force was the only choice.”
Dawn enlisted in the Air Force in September of 1996 at the age of 26. “I went to Basic Training after my youngest son was three years old. I thought that would be a good time to go as he wasn’t a small baby anymore yet had not started school.”
Dawn attended basic training at Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, Texas. She recalls; “The initial weeks were hot and busy, I missed my boys fiercely however, I stayed on track by thinking about how much better off we would all be when I completed basic training.”
Dawn had chosen to be trained as a Public Health technician and was sent to tech school at Brook Army Medical Hospital. Dawn was selected in tech school to be a “Red Rope” Student Squadron Commander, meaning she was the designated lead trainee in charge of her training class. Dawn describes her experience in tech school, “Overall the experience was great, I met a lot of great people who I still keep in contact with. I also was in a leadership position for the first time.”
After successfully graduating from her Public Health training Dawn received her first duty assignment to Whiteman AFB located in central Missouri. In her own words Dawn shares her early Air Force experience.
“My career was a whirlwind! I initially started my career at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. I loved my job and I loved my co-workers. The Air Force life was amazing. I signed up for the GI Bill and was finally able to start college. My children were flourishing, and our family life was good. I attended college classes three nights a week after work, writing papers and studying two of the other nights, however, I always made time for family on Sundays. I also deployed for the first time to Saudi Arabia. This was my first time visiting another country and I enjoyed the experience.”
Dawn’s next duty station took the family to RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom where she served as a Public Health Technician. “I was responsible for food inspection, communicable disease investigation, Occupational Health Education and Prevention, Epidemiology, and Deployment Medicine.” Dawn would be promoted to Staff Sergeant while serving here.
While stationed at Lakenheath Dawn used the time to explore Europe with her family. Her sons attended an English school, visited Paris, Venice, London and many other “amazing location.” “My boys were able to see so many things during this time. They are grateful for the experiences that they had while being “military brats”.
Dawn continued to study, taking college courses in Shakespeare at Stratford upon Avon, (the birthplace of William Shakespeare), taking Art History classes in Europe and visiting the art museums of Tate in London. “This was an awesome opportunity for me!”
Dawn was an excellent student earning straight A’s in her courses. Her supervisor, Captain Craig Forcum, took notice, urging Dawn to apply for Professional Officers Course in order to qualify to become a commissioned officer. While on her second deployment as a Public Health technician, this time to RAFO Thumrait, Oman, Dawn was notified of her selection to the officer commissioning course.
I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I completed my deployment and was immediately ordered to Troy State University in Alabama to finish her degree. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2004 having earned a degree in Advanced Acquisitions and Logistics. 2nd Lieutenant Dawn Baker took her oath of office and received her commission as a Logistics Readiness officer that same day! “It was such an amazing day!”
Dawn received orders to report to Kirtland AFB in New Mexico for her first duty assignment where she was given the responsibility as the Officer in Charge for Deployments and War Reserve Material. I was responsible for the smooth and rapid deployment of people and material as needed to Air Force “areas of responsibility” throughout the world.
Dawn recalls, “It was definitely a different world for me. I had more responsibility but also was excited for the opportunity to influence more airmen.” Dawn remained at Kirtland for the next three years.Her next orders took Dawn on a remote one-year assignment to Kusan Air Base in the Republic of South Korea. Her family returned to Ohio to live during this time.
“Korea was a great assignment! I found out how kind and loyal the South Korean people are. I would go back in a heartbeat!” Lieutenant Baker was promoted to Captain six months after arriving in South Korea.
Captain Baker’s responsibilities increased when she was transferred to Ramstein Air Base in Germany where she assumed the duties as the Installation Deployment Officer. “I was again responsible for overseeing the deployment of personnel and cargo to many different parts of the world in addition to now being responsible for two Wings and how they executed mass deployment/redeployment operations.”
While stationed at Ramstein Baker was deployed for the third time in her career, this time to Afghanistan attached to the Special Operations Command serving as the Logistics Officer. “It was a very dynamic environment. I worked with the C130J gunships nicknamed “Spooky.” We successfully took out hundreds of Taliban fighters. It was a rewarding deployment but also one that opened my eyes to the horrors of war.” Captain Baker returned to Germany and completed her assignment.
Next stop for Captain Baker was the Air Forces Central Command headquarters, located at Shaw AFB in South Carolina, where she served as the Chief of Exercises and Engagements. This assignment took Baker throughout the CENTCOM Area of Operation setting up multi-lateral engagements in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Pakistan, and Jordan. “I worked with each host nation to plan and carry out military exercises together and increase mutual operability.” (During my three years assigned to AFCENT my oldest son Joshua joined the Air Force and was stationed at MacDill AFB, Florida. My youngest son Connor began his college classes at in Texas State University.
“It was a challenging and interesting assignment as many of the countries mentioned do not hold women in the same regard as the United States. I was able to break through some social boundaries while performing this assignment and it was a very rewarding experience. I also deployed for a fourth time to Jordan, where I set up our first fighter base within the region to combat the crisis in Syria.”
Baker returned to the States, accepting a position at Peterson AFB, near Colorado Springs, Colorado as the Director of Operations. (She would be promoted to Major during the first year of her three years at Peterson AFB.) “Colorado is a beautiful state and I fell in love with it immediately.” While stationed at Peterson, Major Baker was selected for a one-year deployment to Monrovia, Liberia as a United Nations Peacekeeper.
“On day one I found myself being picked up at the airport by two Chinese Army Officers, which I found pretty strange as per our National Defense Strategy China is classified as one of the United States primary aggressors. Liberia was quite an interesting experience. I worked with 45 other countries in a very austere environment. I was responsible for closing down United Nations Military sites throughout Liberia, retrograding and gifting land, facilities, and equipment. We battled Ebola at the same time we were promoting peace and free/fair elections. The assignment was rewarding; however I would NOT want to repeat it again.”
When Baker returned to Colorado she was now tasked as the Logistics Readiness Commander for the 45th Air Base Wing. My duties included overseeing Material Management, Deployments, Fuels, Supply, Munitions, and Transportation.” This would be her assignment until she was ordered to Patrick AFB, an Air Force Space Command base located in Florida where Baker assumed command of the 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “This was a great command and I really enjoyed the job. Our primary mission was to launch satellites and rockets into space. I witnessed the first ever “Falcon Heavy” reusable rocket launch, as well as the seeing the rocket boosters return on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral about five minutes later. Elon Musk launched a Tesla into space and it’s still floating somewhere out there.”
Lt. Colonel Baker assumed command on June 20th of this year of the 379th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. “This job is a huge undertaking however; I am loving every minute of it. Its challenging and rewarding and I think I’m a very lucky person to have been given this opportunity. There are so many challenges and the environment is dynamic and ever changing. However, I get to touch the lives of over 2000 airmen daily. What a life!” (Lt. Colonel Baker is joined by her husband James on this assignment.)
Dawn has the following words of advice for any young women considering military service, especially in the Air Force:
“I would say, wow, what a ride! I highly encourage woman that are considering a life in the military to go for it! There are so many opportunities and the education that you get from seeing so many different cultures, lifestyles, good and bad is priceless! It will make you proud and it will remove any doubts in your mind that you do live in the absolutely BEST country in the world. I am so thankful to be an “American Citizen”. I am thankful, so lucky, and so proud to serve!!! Being a role model to young women considering the military is a gift. The best reward I receive is watching women excel in their roles and grow as individuals. The military will offer you things you never thought possible!!!