Friday, May 8, 2015
Top Baker was a very sharp guy and a very good tanker. But this tall, thin, graying soldier had a wandering indirect way of speaking that drove us crazy on several occasions. Once in the Spring of 1977 we were in formation on a cold morning in short sleeves because the Army said it was summer. Top Baker told us one of the washing machines in the barracks was broken and could not be repaired any time soon. With great gestures, but without actually looking at us, Top went on for almost 20 minutes talking about washing clothes in Viet Nam which led him to remember that the maintenance people responsible for that field laundry facility were a bunch of "Silly Punk Mother F**kers." Once he wound himself up to using SPMF we knew he would be talking for another ten minutes at least.
I personally got the SPMF treatment once when during major maintenance of my tank. We turned in all 63 rounds of main gun ammo. It was during this part of my life that I started signing documents with an "N" followed by a wiggly line. The Army required 63 signatures of the tank commander for ammo turn in and 63 signatures to reload the tank.
The trouble this particular time was one of the rounds was missing. I was signed for that SABOT service round. I was an SPMF and Top Baker was going to make sure that I was busted right down to SPMF Private!!!
It was a clerical error so I did not get "busted right down to Private." I noticed to my great relief that during the period in which my sergeant stripes and my future in the Army were in jeopardy, Top Baker never referred to me as a "Non-Tanker." Anyone could make a mistake and be an SPMF until the mistake was corrected, but a Non-Tanker was a fundamental flaw.
I heard at the 70th Armor reunion that Top Baker passed away not long after he returned to America in the early 80s.
Even when I was shivering in the cold, waiting for Top Baker to wrap a 20-minute digression on washing machines in the Army, Top Baker was one of my favorite first sergeants.