Norment Baker may be the U.S. Navy’s best recruiter – unofficially. The truck driver helps steer young men and women toward the high seas and the wild blue yonder every time he stops his rig.
Baker hauls a mobile jet fighter simulator for the Navy and for his company, Atlanta-based Pulseworks Simulation Attractions, to recruiting events all over the country. On a recent stop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Baker said he feels privileged to be on the front lines of America’s recruiting efforts.
“Unofficially, I’m one of the best recruiters they’ve got,” he said. “I’ve helped several people get into the service.” Occasionally former recruits will stop him and tell him that he helped change their life. Truckers on the other hand are more interested in the equipment he’s hauling.
The bright orange, 50-foot, custom trailer was designed in Great Britain and contains storage for stairs and equipment needed to help with the recruiting effort. But Baker’s biggest attraction is an oblong flight simulator perched on the trailer’s deck.
The Navy flight simulator gets lots of attention on the road. Truckers like to ask Baker whether it’s a space football or a UFO.
Wherever he goes, truckers ask him what he’s hauling. “Truckers say, ‘Hey navy, is that a space football?'” The ‘football’ opens up to reveal a realistic cockpit that potential recruits can test drive.
Baker says the simulator is as close to the real thing as you can get without flying an actual jet. In fact, it matches every part of the flying experience except the G-forces.
“The simulator is exactly like you’re on the plane flying with the Blue Angels,” he said.
The simulator’s appeal to high school students and young adults keeps the truck and trailer on the road most of the year. Navy recruiter and Petty Officer, Second Class, Corwin J. Irwin, says the trailer helps interest young people in the Navy and is a big selling piece.
“Everybody wants to fly,” Irwin says. “Everybody wants to be
Everyone except Baker, who has been a trucker for eight years and has been hauling the Navy simulator for the last year and a half. For him it’s a dream haul considering he tried to get in the Navy unsuccessfully. Fresh out of high school, Baker applied for the Navy. “They laughed at me and said, ‘Grow up, boy, and come back and see us.’ I did.”
And he came back in style. Inside his Navy blue and gold Pete, Baker has glued patches from police departments and military posts all over the country. In early February he was gluing his newest badge, from the Tuscaloosa Police Department, to the roof over his gear shifter. His favorite badge is one his son-in-law gave him, taken from his own uniform. His son-in-law is a detective with the police department in Baker’s hometown of Montgomery, Ala.
The cab also features patriotic bunting and an American flag. But what he likes most about his job is that he can impact the lives of young Americans. “I can help them make something out of themselves and maybe plant a seed,” Baker said.