For Lt. Cmdr. Gilbert Baughn, remembering his roots in California is second nature, even as he adds another accomplishment to an already decorated military career.
Baughn relieved Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Alston as officer in charge of Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Atlantic (NCTAMS LANT) Detachment Jacksonville (Det. JAX) during a change of charge ceremony last week, the latest milestone in a nearly 30-year-long career.
After entering the Navy in 1992 as an undesignated seaman recruit, Baughn spent 15 years in the enlisted ranks as an information system technician, advanced to the coveted rank of Chief Petty Officer, and commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program. Baughn is a graduate of the Naval War College with a master's degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. He has served in a multitude of sea, shore, staff, expeditionary, and special warfare billets, and he holds a number of qualifications, unit, and personal awards.
Baughn joined up quickly after graduating from California High School in May of 1992 — he'd left for basic training by August and celebrated his eighteenth birthday at boot camp.
His career to date, Baughn said, has been fantastic.
"I've enjoyed every place I've been to and everything that I've done," Baughn said. "Being in the military and traveling around to deployments has its challenges, and part of being in the military is it teaches you how to deal with certain adversities that a lot of folks take for granted. They may not even think of about some of the stuff we have to deal with moving all the time and making new friends everywhere you go. Especially if you have kids like I do, and like a lot of families do."
Baughn spent two deployments in Iraq and has found himself stationed in places like Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and other countries in the Middle East. With him, he brought his wife and children, the youngest of which is 20 and has followed in her father's footsteps and joined the military as a member of the Army reserves.
"It made them stronger," Baughn said. "It makes kids more resilient, knowing that they can face challenges and still excel."
Being born and raised in California, however, has never left his mind, despite his decades of accomplishments.
"I've always been proud of where I'm from," Baughn said. "I've talked to folks throughout my career about it. Everybody in the Navy is from different places — we share our experiences growing up, and that all comes together in the military."
Baughn said he grew up hauling hay in the summertime and working on the turkey farm, which he said made him the person he is now.
"The work ethic there and the upbringing from my family is what helped make me who I am today, and I always share that with folks," Baughn said.
Baughn said he keeps touch with plenty of friends in California today — "best friends for life" coming from a community like this one, he said. A group of siblings — two sisters and a brother — all also remain in or nearby California today, along with his parents and grandmother, who live two blocks down from each other.
Baughn said the last time he was able to make it home for a surprise visit was about a year and a half ago, which coincided with his father's birthday and retirement celebrations.
Baughn said he owes a lot of his success to his father, who taught him his work ethic, and the leadership in the military that's helped him along the way. Baughn's heritage also played a part in why he joined the military — he has family that served in just about every branch, from a grandfather that served in the Air Force to uncles that served in the Navy, Army and Marines.
His family in Mid-Missouri have connected with him via social media to offer their congratulations since he took on his new role. Baughn said he keeps up communication with his parents and siblings pretty regularly in general, something that has looked different across the span of his career as technology has advanced.
"Having the technology we have and being able to live video chat with someone at the press of a button is nice," Baughn said. "When I came in in 1992, the internet basically didn't exist. Some of my early time out at sea and deployments, you didn't have that communication. It was all handwritten letters in the mail. It's easier for folks to handle that time away when they can communicate back home more often."
Baughn said after his humble beginnings, coming in as an E-1 seaman recruit and working his way up the chain, he is proud of what he has been able to accomplish.
"I'm honored and humbled at the same time to get to be in a position like this, where I'm leading as the command of communications experts," Baughn said. "The mission we do here and what we support is pretty critical, and I'm happy to be here in this position."