Obstacles made reaching goal sweeter | NevadaAppeal.com

Obstacles made reaching goal sweeter

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal News Service Douglas High School class of 2000 graduate Nick Baron talks about working on Air Force One and his military career to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Explorers on June 10.

For anyone who’s ever seen a dream derailed, Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Baron has some advice: Aim higher.

The 25-year-old Douglas High School graduate addressed a dozen members of the sheriff’s office Explorers Post last week.

Baron said he graduated from high school knowing he did not want to attend college.

“I remember a high school paper I had to write about where I wanted to be in the next five years,” Baron said. “I was always fascinated with planes, and writing the paper motivated me to call the Air Force recruiter.”

Baron said it was the only “A” he received for a high school writing assignment.

Six weeks after graduation, Baron was stationed in Little Rock, Ark. He was too young to party, so he took a friend’s advice and went to college, paving the way to becoming an officer.

“The Air Force pays 100 percent of your tuition,” he said. “I took all the courses I could around aviation. I still wanted to be an officer.”

Baron met his wife Melody in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We were on 12-hour shifts and had to go to the dorms and check IDs,” he said.

During a break, Baron went to the dining room where he met Melody, who spent four years in the military as a baker and base hotel manager.

The couple has been married three years.

Baron was training to become a pilot, but failed a depth-perception test.

“They gave me four circles and one was supposed to be closer than the others. I picked the wrong one,” he said.

“I was trying to be an officer so I could fly planes,” he said. “I had my bachelor’s degree and I failed my depth perception test.”

Baron said he was discouraged, but determined to work just as hard as ever.

In 2005, he was deployed to the Middle East to train Iraqis to work on C-130s. He flew to Germany, Romania and Spain as a flight engineer rather than a pilot.

Around that time, Baron received an e-mail that the Air Force was looking for staff sergeants to serve as crew chiefs for Air Force One, the aircraft that carries the president.

“It took 18 months to get the assignment,” he said. “I had to fill out a 50-page packet about the last 10 years of my life. It took nine months to get top secret clearance.”

Baron has been part of the Air Force One ground crew at Andrews Air Force Base since December.

“The first time I walked in the hangar and saw the two Air Force Ones, it was almost emotional. I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t screw this up,'” he said.

Baron told the young Explorers to learn everything they can from failure.

“There’s a lot of competition in the Air Force. People will screw up, but some will take advantage and learn from that,” Baron said. “I’ve had my fair share of failure, but the reason I am on Air Force One is that I failed the depth perception test.”

With eight years in the Air Force, Baron hopes to retire after 20.

“I can do this for 12 more years,” he said, smiling.

“Make sure whatever you do, you do it the best you can and have fun,” Baron said. “You strive for something, if you hit a wall, climb over it, or go around it.”