AR RAMADI, Iraq -- From Marine sniper to deputy sheriff and back again, Staff Sgt. James F. Baker has come full circle and returned to doing what he loves.
Enlisting in the Marine Corps in March of 1992 as an infantryman, Baker followed a long-standing family tradition as he began a career of military service.
Finding his niche in the Corps after serving only four months in the fleet, Baker was chosen to take the indoctrination to become a Marine scout sniper.
Baker was successful in the test, becoming a sniper and beginning some of the most enjoyable years of his career.
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at the time, I loved it,” said Baker, now a platoon sergeant for Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Baker served the remaining three years of his enlistment as a sniper, and as his tour neared its end, looked forward to continuing through re-enlistment.
Unfortunately for Baker, the Corps would not be able to retain him in his favored specialty.
When the time came for his re-enlistment, all billets were filled and there was no room in the Corps for another sniper.
“I had the choice of getting another (military occupational specialty) or getting out of the Corps,” said Baker, a 34-year-old native of Cape Coral, Fla.
Baker chose to leave the Corps in 1996, preferring an honorable discharge to a change in his occupational specialty.
Unwilling to try any of the other military branches, Baker looked to get his “foot in the door” of law enforcement.
He began his move as a correctional officer for the Charlotte County Correctional Institution, which offered employees state funded courses in law enforcement.
After serving nine months as a correctional officer, Baker became a Deputy Sheriff at the Collier County Sheriff’s office.
Baker’s experience in the Corps proved valuable in his initial duties as Deputy Sheriff, with his first assignment making him a drill instructor for juvenile boot camp.
“The curriculum was based off of the Marine Corps regimen, which made it fairly easy for me,” said Baker.
The familiarity of the job led Baker to excel in his duties, but began to wear on the former Marine.
Working once again in a military-like environment, Baker began to realize how much he missed the Corps.
“I missed the camaraderie, the structure and the deployments,” said Baker. “I looked at my life and realized I had to go back.”
After one year and three months at the sheriff’s office, Baker contacted a local Marine Corps recruiter.
Eager to rejoin active service, Baker met all of his requirements and was approved for re-entry into the Marine Corps in just two weeks.
“When the package got approved, the recruiter asked me when I wanted to re-enlist,” said Baker. “I said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’”
In February of 1999, Baker re-entered the Fleet Marine Corps as a scout sniper.
As he anxiously reported in for his newest assignment, Baker knew immediately that he was back where he needed to be.
“I was so happy about being back in,” said Baker. “It was the absolute correct decision.”
Since then, Baker has attended ten advanced infantry schools, and served in a variety of leadership roles such as: chief sniper, sniper platoon sergeant, assault climber instructor, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel instructor, and primary marksmanship instructor.
Baker is currently on his first deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and serves as an infantry platoon sergeant in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Sitting inside the reinforced walls of the Government Center in the center of the city, Baker remains quite happy as he finds himself exactly where he wanted to be.
“My time in the Corps has been everything I expected it to be and better,” said Baker.