Shipmate of the Week – Charles Baack

Since 1976 Charles W. Baack has stood faithful to Station Fire Island as a communications watchstander and break-in trainer. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration.

Since 1976 Charles W. Baack has stood faithful to Station Fire Island as a communications watchstander and break-in trainer. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration.

Written by Seaman Phylicia Miller.

One man got Tuesdays with Morrie, but at Station Fire Island the entire crew is fortunate enough to get Wednesdays with Charles Baack. Since 1976 Charles W. Baack has stood faithful to Station Fire Island as a communications watchstander and break-in trainer. What’s more amazing than that, is he is 97 years young and remains as sharp as a whip!

Auxiliary

Baack is considered a fountain of knowledge around the station, someone who can be found reading any and everything and can recite pages from Bowditch and Chapman. All crew, from non-rate to officer-in-charge learn something from the simplest of conversations with Baack.

A question like, “How are you doing today Mr. Baack?” is often replied with, “I learned something today. It’s a good day. Every day you learn something is a good day.”

His indoctrination into seafaring activities started back in the 1940s when he enlisted in the Navy as a first class engineer aboard the Landing Ship USS LST-1085 in the Pacific during World War II.

After leaving the Navy, many years would pass until his interest and love of the water prompted him back to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary. A decision that could be most comparable to adding polish to a fine piece of silver, Mr. Baack shines bright in his flotilla.

Living near and boating on the Great South Bay his entire life, it is safe to say no one knows these waters better. As an auxillarist he has acquired knowledge that has enabled him to be a vessel safety examiner as well as a teacher of numerous boater safety classes for youth and adults.

For the last 37 years, Baack has seen many Coast Guard members grow from disoriented non-rates on to great petty officers and chiefs. Specifically, the current executive petty officer at Station Fire Island, Chief Petty Officer Nathan Purinton, remembers Baack being here as he avanced from non-rate to petty officer 2nd class on his first tour with the Coast Guard.

Station Fire Island has five small boats staged at its location to conduct search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ali Flockerzi.

Station Fire Island has five small boats staged at its location to conduct search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ali Flockerzi.

The mere weekly presence of Baack brings a richness of history that crewmembers regard with admiration. When once asked what would be the one piece of advice he’d like to give the younger generation Baack said, “Stick to your moral convictions, everything else around you will change but that.”

At age 97, he lives his life better than most could ask for. The neighborhood children in his quaint cul-de-sac run freely in and out of his house for their one piece of candy a day, a bowl he leaves full in his living room for them. Over the summer you will hear talk of him leaving early to trim his hedges before the sun gets too hot. Baack remains an active member of his church and takes five-hour drives up to Maine to visit his son several times a year.

Many of his fellow auxillarist consider him a hero amongst them; a modest, humble and giving man. His dedication to Station Fire Island over these years holds true to Coast Guard core values and for that we honor him.

Do you know a Shipmate that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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  • Tom Teare

    Charles – You’re an inspiration to us old-time Coasties!

  • Maurice C. Poulin

    Mr. Baack You look great,I am 91 and still march in the Memorial Day parade in my town.I spent the war on USS Leonard Wood APA-12 but you had a tougher time on LST.Good luck on the CG job and you are doing good work and are appreciated by all the crew.Maurice C. Poulin a retired Boatswains mate