Lt. Phil Messer signals from the cockpit of his jet to a member of the ground crew during a morning exercise flight at the base in Swanton Township, which is home to a squadron of Fighting Falcons.
In the short time he has commanded the 180th Fighter Wing at Toledo Express Airport, Col. Craig Baker has grown to understand the relationship the National Guard Base has to the local community and what its support means to the men and women who serve under him.
“The important thing I want to make sure and do is to get out and see the community, what kind of things we are involved with in the community, and what kind of things the community is involved with us,” Colonel Baker said.
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Colonel Baker arrived in Toledo in February after serving as vice commander for six months at the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. He spoke to journalists on Wednesday during media day at the base.
Col. Craig R. Baker, commander of the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, says he is committed to the guard’s base mission as a military facility.
“Our airmen do an incredible amount, and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have the mission and vision that we have,” he said. “My job is to get out and to tell their stories.”
The 180th Wing on Eber Road in Swanton Township is home to a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Colonel Baker commands the 1,300 personnel assigned to the base, about 500 of whom are full time.
Last year, more than 300 airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing were deployed to eight countries.
According to the 180th Fighter Wing’s 2013 report, the unit contributed more than $110 million to the overall economy, and about $95 million of that made an immediate impact on the local economy.
Colonel Baker said American Red Cross blood drives, donations to Toledo Seagate Food Bank of more than 900 pounds of canned goods, and more than $4,000 in cash were examples of the base’s community involvement.
He said the airmen under his command coach athletic teams at local schools, give their time for YMCA camps, and serve as volunteers in programs for the developmentally disabled.
Tech. Sgt. Dan Goble, left, and Airman 1st Class Brett Sloan, right, get ready for one of the jets to take flight.
“We have done quite a bit with the community,” he said.
Colonel Baker grew up in Phoenix and is a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from officer school at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and earned masters of science degrees in military operations at Air Force and Army colleges.
As a pilot, he has logged more than 2,500 hours in F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and training jets.
Contact Mark Reiter at: email@example.com or 419-724-6199.