A life in leadership: Woman says she learned valuable skills in 4-H
4-Hers spend their youth learning about animal husbandry, but they also learn community service and leadership. Those skills take them to new heights in their careers as adults.
For Val Baker, she became involved in 4-H at age 8 with horses and expanded into lambs and calves. By her senior year, Baker had more than 300 projects in 4-H. She was a junior leader and was the rocketry leader. Through it all, she had a lot of fun.
When she was old enough, she decided to join the Air Force.
“Part of why I got an ROTC scholarship was because of the (4-H) leadership and community service,” she said. “The Air Force wants leadership, community service and athletics. Two of those were 4-H.”
Baker retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in July 2017 and returned home to western Nebraska. During her 25 years in the Air Force, she was deployed 12 times. She ended her career 800 miles short of going around the world three times.
“Mom and dad kept the ranch while my sister and I were gallivanting around the world,” she said. “Now, I’m back and helping with the ranch.”
Baker spends her time tending to the dozens of calves as well as growing corn and alfalfa, but she also finds time to give back to the 4-H community that taught her about community service and leadership. She was also a member of the Bit and Spur Club and helps out there as well. She keeps giving back because of what she received as a youth.
“I have fond memories of here and I want to help the kids learn,” she said.
Baker came back to work with youth at the Bit and Spur Club to teach them how to ride, how to complete patterns and how do anything else they need help with. As the next class of riders prepares to head into the arena, riders are always looking toward Baker. They see her commitment to community service and take advantage of the skills she has to give.
Her love of horses is so great that during the more than two decades she was in the Air Force, she was able to keep her horses with her. Whenever Baker was deployed, her friends helped take care of her horses.
When Baker was deployed to Bosnia, her friends called and said they had the perfect horse for her.
“I bought and paid for three months stable fees before I ever laid eyes on him,” she said.
Her 22-year-old horse, Capital Business, or Cappy, has been with her all but four years of her military service. She tears up as she expresses the joy he has given her.
“One of the girls will be showing him today,” she said. “He was with me my whole career.”