BY JOHN HESTERLY, Special to The Aegis
8:54 PM EST, February 2, 2012
In a ceremony at the Pentagon, hosted by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Jan. 6, Brig. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, an Aberdeen High School graduate, was promoted to major general in the U.S. Army.
The ceremony was attended by CIA Director and retired general David Petraeus, former commander of troops in the Middle East, and many of Baker's military associates, family and friends.
Baker has been designated recently as commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, Djibouti.
Baker is the son of Jan Baker, of Aberdeen, and the late Army Lt. Col. Ralph Baker. He graduated in 1978 from Aberdeen High School, where he was an excellent student and participated in football, baseball and wrestling, the latter under coach Dick Slutzky, now a Harford County councilman. Baker was a classmate and baseball teammate of future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
Upon high school graduation, Baker entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and was commissioned a lieutenant of infantry following his graduation in 1982.
Baker's previous command and staff assignments include service with the 82nd Airborne Division during their deployment to Grenada; 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment; 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment; service with the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Germany; commander, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Fort Lewis, Washington; Deputy G3, V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany; commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division in Germany; and Deputy Commanding General, United States Division – Center, Baghdad, Iraq, through Operation Iraqi Freedom 10 and Operation New Dawn 1.
He is serving as the vice director for Joint Force Development, Joint Staff, J7, at the Pentagon. Baker has participated in 87 parachute jumps.
Baker's other assignments include service at the U.S. Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Ga.; Tactical Officer, Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, United Kingdom; Aide-de-Camp to the commanding general, I Corps and Fort Lewis; and deputy director for Politico-Military Affairs, J-5 – Middle East, Strategic Plans and Policy, on the Joint Staff.
Baker holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy, a master's degree in administration from Central Michigan University and a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He is a graduate of the Basic and Advanced Infantry Officer Courses, the Combined Arms Services Staff School, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Naval War College. His military schools and courses include Airborne, Ranger, Pathfinder, Jumpmaster, Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and Joint Firepower Control.
Baker's awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters and V-device, Meritorious Service medal with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman's Badge (2nd Award), Master Parachutist Badge and British Parachutist Badge.
Baker has two daughters, Caitlin, a graduate of the University of South Florida, and Julianne, a student at the University of Virginia. His daughters placed the new shoulder boards of major general rank on his shoulders at the promotion ceremony. Also attending was his mother, his sister and brother-in-law and nephew and many high school friends and teachers.
He is a member of the Aberdeen High School Hall of Fame along with other distinguished alumni who include military and sports figures and a former administrator of NASA.
Baker's accomplishments in the service of his country are exemplary and deserve our attention, respect and admiration.
Editor's note: Following his Army career (including an assignment teaching engineering subjects at West Point), Aberdeen resident John Hesterly taught math at Aberdeen High School for 17 years (1973-90). Among his AHS students was Ralph "Rob" Baker, whom Hesterly taught for three years (1975-78) and encouraged to attend West Point.