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LTC Patricia Baker: "4-H taught me the importance of civic involvement, teamwork and working autonomously."

I had the amazing opportunity to interview Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Baker for a special Veteran’s Day Alumni feature. She received a Reserve Officer Training Corps commission, Aviation Branch, from the University of North Dakota in 1997 as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Since then, Lt. Col. Baker has been deployed to Iraq twice, and is the recipient of several notable medals. She is currently assigned as the 34th Combat Aviaiton Brigade Full-time Officer in charge and S3 in the Minnesota Army National Guard, and is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota. Read on to find out how being in Minnesota 4-H helped prepare her for a lifelong career in the military.

Eunice Lin: When (and in which county) did you participate in 4-H?
Patricia Baker: I was in Minnesota 4-H from 1983 to 1993, so quite a long time. At the age of 8 I started out as an Amboy Sunriser in Cottonwood County 4-H. We moved several times to different farms, so I was actually also in Lac qui Parle County 4-H and Redwood County 4-H as well.

EL: What were your main project areas in 4-H, and why did you choose them?
PB: I lived on a series of farms from throughout my years as a 4-H member. There was always an anchoring project based on whatever animal we had on the farm at that time. When we raised sheep, my main project was sheep. Once we moved into town, it switched to smaller animals, like rabbits.

But there was always a part of me that was a science-leaning kid. Home improvement projects were also always available; there was always something that needed to be refurbished or refinished, and home improvement seemed like an easy go-to for a farm kid in southwest Minnesota. Other projects I did were photography and rocketry, and that just came from being a geeky science kid. I think that being a STEM kid aligned with my interests academically.

EL: What is something indispensable that you learned from being in 4-H?
PB:  4-H taught me a lot about how to work on teams, and when you do eventually break from teams, it taught me how to work on my projects autonomously.

EL: How did your experience in 4-H help prepare you for your career today?
PB: The biggest things it taught me were the importance of civic involvement, being comfortable with committee work and having to do project on your own.

EL: What does a typical day in your life look like?
PB: A typical day starts with me showing up to Holman Downtown Airfield here at the Army National Guard facility. Here in the hanger we have 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and a couple C12 fixed wing aircraft. My office is in the second level of the hangar, and I can see the helicopters outside my window. Here at the facility, we fly daily missions, night vision mission, and when units are here at drill, we can have over 300 soldiers here in the hangar.

EL: What are you passionate about?
PB:  Selfless service. I learned this as a young child doing service projects in 4-H, and it carried over to a professional career of lifelong military service.

EL: What are some of your career highlights?
PB: I am a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter qualified senior Army aviator with 23 years of continuous uniformed service. As the combat Commander of B/2-4 Aviation Regiment during OIFI (Operation Iraqi Freedom), serving with General Odierno, I accumulated 504 combat flight hours, and am currently assigned as the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade Operations Officer.

EL: What advice do you have for current 4-H’ers?
PB: Stick with 4-H!  There are a hundred groups you can join online or at school or at church, none of them will give you the hands on experiences, teamwork, or project management skills for succeeding in life like 4-H.

EL: What makes Minnesota 4-H great?
We have 87 counties for young members to join, without gender restrictions, across counties fairs where youth can compete every summer for the chance to go to the biggest and best State Fair in the US! 4-H is the one club you can join where you’re not sorted by gender, you don’t have to sell anything, and you don’t have to wear a costume or a suit. 4-H has elements of competition, but it’s predominantly based on cohesive teams that we call “clubs”. It’s a way to build lifelong skills, it’s not about trophies or badges. 4-H is about skills and friendships you take with you for life!

Interview by Eunice Lin
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
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