Nevada High School’s Guidance Counselor Jeff Baker believes a recent educators’ event he was invited to take part in will help him to better advise high school students who are thinking about military service.


Baker, 46, who himself was a member of the United States Navy, was invited by Air Force recruiter Staff Sgt. John Gerke to take part in the Air Force’s Distinguished Educators’ Tour, which took place several weeks ago in Texas.


“We were lodged on Randolph Air Force Base and toured Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA). We were shown and experienced many different aspects of life for airmen in the Air Force, from boot camp to survival training, from their food to the barracks and all their educational (college) opportunities,” Baker said.


“It’s hard for me to say this as a prior Navy guy,” Baker says with a laugh, “but the Air Force is amazing. I know all branches are great in their own way, but what the Air Force does for their airmen, their facilities, their job training, and the amount of college education you get for free was astounding.”


During the event, Baker, who has been high school counselor at Nevada for 15 years, had the opportunity to tour JBSA, which includes JBSA-Randolph (headquarters of the Air Education and Training Command), and JBSA-Lackland (where they do all the basic training for the Air Force), and JBSA-Fort Sam Houston (an Army base). “We got to watch the Airmen Coin Ceremony and graduation from boot camp at Lackland,” he said of some of the trip highlights.


Being invited to take part, Baker said, was an honor. “This was only the second time in 10 years that the Air Force did something like this. SSgt Gerke serves many high schools in Des Moines and the surrounding area (including Nevada), so that he asked me above all the other counselors in all the other schools was really an honor. I would definitely go again.”


Baker said he comes away from the educators’ tour with a better understanding of what the current military has to offer young men and women. “I was in the Navy in the early ’90s during the Gulf War, so as a veteran I always felt I was giving the military a fair chance with our students, the same as college admission counselors and employers. However, after touring the Air Force and its facilities, and getting a glimpse of what they have to offer, I realized how out-of-date I was with my information. Some aspects of my time in the Navy still hold true, but it is different in so many ways now. Definitely in the 21st century!”


Baker said he also traveled to a lot of places during his time in the military, but this was the first time he had ever set foot in the state of Texas. “San Antonio was beautiful and I’d definitely like to go back with my family for a vacation.”


Baker said he now plans to contact the local Navy recruiter to see if they have something similar to what he just experienced with the Air Force. If so, he’d certainly welcome an opportunity to take part. “My experience was so different 25 years ago. I want to see the Navy in the 21st century,” he said.