By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 1/10/17 (Tue)
It must have been about six or seven years ago. I had already been transferred to Camp Grafton for my National Guard job and the Army was in the process of upgrading its email system.
For those of us who aren’t tech savvy, this was a difficult adjustment, having to log on with an ID card just so you can send the captain an email to let him know you’ve finished your mission.
It seemed like it was more work than was necessary but after a while most of us came to understand that it was done to stop possible hacking of the Army computer system.
So as I’m learning how to use this thing, I was looking through my emails one day and found one from a sergeant major who I had never heard of.
I opened the email and read it. He must have known me because his message was as if we were old buddies or something.
Could it have been somebody I met during a short-duration mission out to Presidio of San Francisco or to Fort McCoy, Wis., and just forgot who it was?
I didn’t think so because over the years I may have lost track of people’s rank, but I wouldn’t have forgotten a person’s name, especially when they go on and on about the old times we’ve had together.
I didn’t answer the email because I needed time to process who this sergeant major may have been.
Shortly thereafter, I got another email asking me how I’ve been and why didn’t I respond after hearing from him after so many years.
OK, this is getting a little creepy because I don’t remember who this is and it appears he knows me.
Is he some kind of clever salesman with an Army pass trying to get me to buy something? Could he really be someone I knew and had forgotten about? Was this guy stalking me for some reason or was it a case of mistaken identity?
I was having a hard time with this because at the time I was struggling with this new, cumbersome Army email system, then I’m getting these cordial messages from a Soldier at the top of the heap who I can’t remember.
Finally, I answered him back and told him I hate to ask a dumb question, but who are you?
“It’s me Bill, I’ve been looking for you since we came back from the Philippines and finally found you in Devils Lake, North Dakota.”
OK, that rules me out because I’ve never been in the Philippines.
So maybe it was mistaken identity and the guy just made an honest mistake and thought he found his Army buddy by name recognition.
So, another response, and this time, I told him I’ve never been in the Philippines and that San Francisco was as close as I’ve ever come to the Pacific Rim.
He sends an email in response. “You’ve always been a pretty good joker. That’s what I’ve always admired about you, playing tricks on the cadre like you did.”
I’ve always taken my military training very seriously and have never played tricks on anyone, not even brand-new lieutenants.
That was my response to “Bill.” His reply, “But it’s been so many years, don’t play a trick on me now. We’ve got to get together because Fort Riley isn’t that far away.”
When I saw that, I thought this guy has obviously got the wrong person so I started doing some research to find out how many Marvin Bakers there were in the Army and how many had been to the Philippines during the time that “Bill” suggested.
I found 50 people with my name Army wide, which kind of surprised me. Baker is a common name in the Army but not Marvin.
Over time I narrowed it down to about six who had served in the Philippines and used clues in his emails to narrow that down to a person named Marvin A. Baker who, at the time, was serving in Fort Drum, N.Y.
So, a lengthy email went back to this guy, giving him a synopsis of my military career; where I had been in what years and that I didn’t match his M.O. because the work I did in the military was much unlike what he did.
The response that came back was, “Oh!” That was the end of this mystery.
It went on for nearly a year, but keep in mind that we only had Guard drill three days a month so it was the equivalent of 36 days of back and forth.
It was probably the strangest thing that ever occurred to me during my military career. Had it been regular email, I would have quickly dismissed it, but since Army email was secure, it seemed intriguing.
But, the mystery was solved, proving once again it was the first sergeant doing the sergeant major’s work.