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Drone hobby keeps Airman resilient, mission-ready

A man wearing plaid flies a drone.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakoda Baker, 19th Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation craftsman, flies a drone in Jacksonville, Arkansas, January 25, 2019. Baker started using drones to survey, map, take photos and accomplish many more unique tasks while he interned for a drone company. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man wearing a plaid sweater messes with the wires on drone.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakoda Baker, 19th Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation craftsman, prepares a drone for flight in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Jan. 25, 2019. Baker rediscovered his love for electronics, while he lived in the dormitories as a young Airman. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man uses a control to fly a drone.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakoda Baker, 19th Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation craftsman, flies a drone in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Jan. 25, 2019. Baker flies drones professionally and races them in a local club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A man wearing plaid sits by a drone.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakoda Baker, 19th Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation craftsman, sits at his desk where he works on drones in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Jan. 25, 2019. Baker has trained detectives and Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI agents on how to use drones for work purposes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Air Force leaders try to develop resilient Airmen by encouraging them get out of their dorm rooms and find a hobby, spend time with friends, and just take care of themselves during their Air Force career. That’s exactly what U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dakoda Baker, 19th Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation craftsman, did when he rediscovered his love of electronics.

“Once you find something that makes you happy and is worth your time, make sure you find ways to do it safely for your mental and physical health, while not interfering with your Air Force career,” Baker said.

Baker knew without a hobby to unwind he wouldn’t be able to give 100 percent to the mission as an Airman every day. Remembering his love of electronics as a child, he decided to take a trip to RadioShack.

He discovered electronics available to hobbyists, which led him to countless hours of relaxation and restoration for mission success. Soon he would realize this simple hobby would turn into much more.

While living in the dorms, Baker spent countless hours learning about electronics, but after achieving a higher rank Baker moved out of the dorms, and his interest in electronics lessened.

One afternoon while Baker was in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, he came across a small unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drone, company looking for people who knew their way around electronics. His aspiration to learn about electronics was rekindled. After discussions with his leadership, he became an intern who used sUAS to survey, map, take photos and accomplish many more unique tasks.

“I never realized drones were an actual tool. I always thought they were just toys,” Baker said. “Being with drones has opened up so many doors outside of the military. It really just keeps giving back to me and keeps me happy.”

He became so intrigued with sUAS he decided to open up his own business repairing and building them.

“Anything worth managing your time or spending your time doing should be something you enjoy,” Baker said. “Don’t struggle managing your time if what you’re doing doesn’t contribute to your overall well-being. It’s not worth it.”

His business would be short-lived after receiving notification the military was deploying him. Serving his country overseas was something he always wanted to do, so he was very willing to put his aspiration on hold so he could support agile combat airlift in a contested environment.

“I wanted to work on C-130s my whole life, so my goal is to stay in the military as long as possible,” Baker said. “When I am at work, the military and the mission will always come first. I had my own company and needed to close it so I could accomplish the mission overseas.”

Little did he know during his deployment, the word about his sUAS business would spread all over Arkansas, landing him contracts to fix sUAS and train members of the North Little Rock Police Department and Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, including detectives and Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI agents.

His commitment to the military and his country showed while he was working alongside these first responders. The conversation of his military service came up numerous times when he was training them on the use of sUAS.

“When you’ve been in the military as long as I have, there’s a certain way you hold yourself, and a room full of police officers are the first ones to notice,” Baker said.

Working with sUAS will always be something Baker is passionate about, but his first priority is his military career and serving with his best foot forward. His strong sense of resilience and commitment to his country shaped him into a man who represents the Air Force in and out of uniform.

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