Soldier caps career of fixing missile systems

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Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 8:40 am | Updated: 8:42 am, Wed Dec 12, 2012.

Chief warrant officer 4 retiring after 27 years

Sharing the Soldier’s perspective on missile systems and how they are used in the field has been a rewarding way for Chief Warrant Officer 4 Duane Baugher to spend his last few years in the Army.

So, as he trades his Soldier uniform for the clothes of a civilian, Baugher is grateful for a military experience that has provided opportunities to learn technical skills, maintenance procedures, acquisition regulations and logistics management. He retired Thursday from his logistics position with the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.

“I’ve had a great career,” Baugher said. “I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve met some great people who have become good friends. I will always look back on my time and not regret anything I did.”

He certainly doesn’t regret joining the Army, although when he was 17 he really wasn’t interested in being a Soldier.

“I never wanted to join the Army,” said Baugher, who grew up in Hudson, Fla. “When I was a senior in high school, the recruiter would call our house all the time. It wasn’t something on my radar, so I never returned those calls.

“But one day I was home alone when the phone rang and I answered it. The next thing I knew I was at the recruiting station taking the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and signing up for the delayed entry program.”

Even so, Baugher wasn’t convinced he would become a Soldier.

“I kept thinking ‘This isn’t for me. I’m not going to go,’” he recalled. “But when I graduated and I realized I didn’t have much of a future, I was right there with the recruiter asking him ‘Hey, we’re still going right?’

“I decided I’d go in the Army and get paid while I figure out what I was going to do. But, then I loved it.”

He joined in 1986 as a Vulcan repairer in the Ordnance Corps. It was a job that appealed to him for the hands-on maintenance of the system, which he learned at Redstone Arsenal.

“They showed it firing and doing crazy stuff, and then they showed this guy working on the system. That’s what I wanted to do,” Baugher said.

“I really liked that attention to detail that maintenance and repair required. When Soldiers broke it they brought it to Soldiers like me who would fix it for them.”

His first assignment took him to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he climbed the ranks to sergeant before moving on to an assignment in Hawaii. That second assignment became a crossroads for Baugher, who made the decision to re-enlist and to apply to warrant officer school while in Hawaii.

“I had friends who were warrant officers and they encouraged me to apply,” Baugher said. “They saw something in me and encouraged me to put in my packet. They felt I had the qualifications to be a technical expert in missile systems.”

Even as things were going well for his career, Baugher had to give up his work on the Vulcan because the system was being replaced by the Avenger. He shifted his focus to the Multiple Launch Rocket System, and was assigned to Fort Carson, Colo. After about two years, he was chosen to go to warrant officer school, followed by two more years at Fort Carson, where he worked on the Bradley Stinger Fighting Vehicle, and then a year at Camp Stanley, Korea, where he was in charge of all Avenger repairs.

“Working on the different systems was interesting,” Baugher said. “But as a missile warrant, a lot of the work didn’t involve the missiles themselves. It was more about being an automotive warrant than a missile warrant because the missile systems work so well. It was the platforms they were riding on that broke and had to be fixed.”

He then was assigned to Fort Polk, La., with the Avenger system. While there, he married and then deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, for six months, where he handled field acquisition for an Avenger battery.

“There was no infrastructure at the time. If you didn’t bring it with you or you couldn’t buy it there, then you didn’t get it,” Baugher said. “I went out on a lot of convoys just to find things we needed. I had just gotten married, so there were a lot of letters and phone calls home.”

After he returned, the family moved to Germany for six and a half years, where Baugher was assigned to the Corps Materiel Management Command as a readiness analyst/fleet manager in Wiesbaden and then as a Support Operations Maintenance Branch officer-in-charge in Bamberg. His job involved tracking the readiness of missile systems in Europe.

Also during this time, he deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq from 2005-06 to serve with the Multinational Corps-Iraq as a liaison officer with the Joint Operations Center and then to Balad, Iraq, in 2008-09 with the Sustainment Command-Expeditionary to serve as a liaison officer.

“In Balad, there were multiple mortar attacks every day,” he said. “You just had to stay focused on your work. We worked 12-hour days, so they went by pretty fast.”

Baugher was then assigned to PEO Missiles and Space to manage logistics for, first, the SLAMRAAM Product Office, and then the Sentinel Product Office. Since June 2010, he has been involved in validations and verifications for technical manuals, logistics demonstrations and maintainability demonstrations.

“I’ve particularly enjoyed helping to develop new systems and coming up with new ideas. I’ve enjoyed being able to give a Soldier’s perspective to the engineers here as they design and build systems,” Baugher said.

While most of his career has focused on maintenance and repair of missile systems to ensure readiness, Baugher has also learned about acquisition and logistics, particularly during his assignment with PEO Missiles and Space.

“When you’re a warrant officer, they want you to take care of all the equipment in the unit,” Baugher said. “You are expected to have a thorough knowledge of your area of expertise and others respect you for that knowledge. You always have to be careful with what you say. Soldiers will follow what you say because you’re the chief.”

As Baugher transitions into the civilian world, he is hoping to return to PEO Missiles and Space as a civilian employee. His wife Vonetta and four children enjoy this community, and this is where they will make their home. Looking back on his nearly 27 years moving around with the Army, he said it is an experience he will never forget and will always learn from.

“It’s a good way of life if you like structure, camaraderie and esprit de corps,” said the recipient of the Bronze Star. He has also received the Order of St. Barbara and Ordnance Order of Samuel Sharpe.

“You do spend a lot of time separated from your family. But the Army becomes your extended family – both for you as a Soldier and for your wife and children – because you are all in it together, you are away from your extended family and you care about each other. It’s the kind of life that you just have to embrace and it embraces you.”

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