VICENZA, It. – Lt. Col. John M. Baker relinquished duties as the commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion to Lt. Col. Corbett W. Baxter during the change of command ceremony May 31 on Caserma Del Din in Vicenza, Italy. A change of command is a military tradition that represents a transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit or command. The history, tradition and accomplishments of the command are embodied in the colors. The passing of colors from an outgoing commander to an incoming commander ensures that the unit and its Soldiers are never without official leadership, represents a continuation of trust and signifies an allegiance of Soldiers to their unit's commander.
Maj. Gen. Andrew M. Rohling, commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa presided over the ceremony. Rohling credited Baker for his leadership and commitment to ensuring readiness for the battalion, in part by prioritizing upgrades to equipment in the motor pool and instituting a driver’s training program.
“Some leaders draw power and authority from simply being the commander. However, John leads through the power and example of his character,” said Rohling. “I can think of no better example of his character and his leadership than our safety and maintenance programs. Col. Baker and his team have reduced equipment shortages tenfold and modernized more than our vehicle fleet – taking on rolling stock, weapons, and radios. The battalion is now the heart and soul of our safety and maintenance programs, as well as personal readiness. These are all key components of ensuring our command’s readiness and mission capabilities.”
Baker took command July 1, 2020; prior to that, Baker served as Secretary of the General Staff in Wiesbaden, Germany. His other assignments include service stateside, as well as Stuttgart, Germany. In addition, he has a combat deployment to Iraq participating in Operation Phantom Fury. He has deployed to Ethiopia and Djibouti as a Military Information Support Team commander. He also has two operational deployments to Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Sahara as a Regional Information Support Team commander. His next assignment will bring him back to the United States, to Pennsylvania.
Baker expressed gratitude for SETAF-AF wholly in his remarks, thanking Maj. Gen. Rohling and the rest of the command team for their guidance and mentorship, and junior enlisted soldiers for their contributions to his effort to ensure the battalion’s readiness. Baker welcome Lt. Col Baxter, noting that Italy is not new to him.
Prior to taking command, Baxter served as the Assistant G3-5 and Chief of Current operations for U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa. Off duty, Baxter is coach of the Mako Sharks, the youth competitive swim team for the Vicenza Military Community. His wife Melissa is an active Vicenza community member and volunteer, currently serving as president of the team, as well as incoming organizational representative to the Transatlantic Council for Vicenza Boy Scout Troop 295.