Under Head Coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers have been transformed into a team that prides itself on discipline, attention to detail and unity. In the very earliest stages of this transformation, Buccaneer players learned that every detail was important, right down to how their toes lined up on the yardlines during team stretch.
John Baker, who was a special guest at the Buccaneers’ practice at One Buc Place on Wednesday, knows quite a bit about walking a precise line.
Baker, a sergeant in the U.S. Army who recently re-enlisted through 2014 and will soon begin a tour in Afghanistan, spent the first four years of his military service in a very exclusive post. He was a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County Virginia from April of 2008 through this past August.
The Tomb of the Unknowns houses an unidentified World War I soldier whose remains were brought back from France, and it is dedicated to all American servicemen and women who die in service without their remains being identified. Serving as a Tomb Guard is considered a very high honor, and only a small fraction of those who volunteer and are accepted for training make it through the program. Baker is one of just 602 servicemen who have worn the Sentinel badge since 1921.
Tomb Guards are part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. They provide a 24-hour watch over what is considered a sacred site, rotating in 30-minute shifts during the summer and one-hour shifts during the winter. During a Sentinel’s shift, he is required to follow a precise and meticulously-detailed routine that involves walking 21 paces across the front of the tomb, facing the tomb for 21 seconds and then returning another 21 steps in the other direction.
Last summer, during the Buccaneers visit to Virginia to play the Washington Redskins in the preseason, Baker took several team employees on a tour of the Tomb grounds, including a rare look inside the guard quarters, where the Sentinels train and live during their post. On Wednesday, the Bucs returned the favor for their new friend, a Tampa native who has rooted for the Buccaneers since their days in orange uniforms.
Baker’s visit to One Buc Place on Wednesday included a tour of the state-of-the-art facility and a spot on the sideline during practice. General Manager Mark Dominik stopped by for a chat and to wish Baker well on his upcoming tour. Since ascending to his current post with the team, Dominik has placed a special emphasis on events and activities that bring recognition and honor to members of the Armed Forces.