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VETERANS DAY TAB - Kevin Brooks wanted to fly jets since high school. The Rochester native, son of former Rochester residents Bob and Jan Brooks, remembers thinking about the service academies as an excellent opportunity to receive a great education and p

"Initially, I was leaning toward the Air Force Academy," says Brooks, "but I decided that the Naval Academy might have more interesting options if I wasn't able to become a pilot."

He completed the service academy application process during his junior and senior years in high school and was eventually accepted to the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the Military Academy. Brooks chose the Naval Academy and, upon graduation in 1988, received his commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

"I didn't know very much about the Marine Corps when I went to the Naval Academy, but the more I learned about it, the more I felt that the Marine Corps would be a good choice for me" says Brooks. It appears that he made the correct choice, since he is still going strong and plans to stay in the Marine Corps until eligible for military retirement after 20 years of service.

After graduation, 2nd Lt. Brooks attended graduate school at the University of Maryland and then proceeded to Pensacola, Fla., to begin aviation training. He hoped to qualify for jet training, but he realized that the Marine Corps could not promise to fulfill his dream. However, with equal parts hard work and good timing, he completed jet training and received his Wings of Gold as a Naval Aviator in April 1992.

He transferred to El Toro, Calif., to receive training in the F/A-18 Hornet. "I couldn't believe that I was realizing my dream and getting a paycheck!" exclaims Brooks.

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After completion of the initial training, he went to serve with VMFA(AW)-225, a Marine F/A-18D two-seat Hornet squadron. His tour with the "Vikings" of 225 took him around the world to destinations such as Alaska, Japan, Okinawa and Korea. He volunteered for a one-year billet with a Marine Corps infantry battalion as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) and Air Officer.

Brooks says, "I realized that the FAC tour would be challenging, but I knew that it would also be the shortest turnaround to get back to flying." He went back to his former squadron, the "Vikings," and served a second tour with another overseas deployment. During these tours, Brooks was promoted to captain and then to major.

In 1999, the Marine Corps asked Major Brooks to transfer to Lemoore, Calif., to serve as an F/A-18 instructor pilot, training new aviators in the Hornet. Although reluctant to leave San Diego, Brooks says now that his time in Lemoore was very rewarding.

"I enjoy teaching and mentoring junior officers," he says, "and my time in Lemoore turned out to be a great tour with many great friendships and experiences."

Brooks married Amy Jo Roy in October of 2000 and they returned to San Diego in May 2002. While stationed at MCAS Miramar, Maj. Brooks worked on the Marine Aircraft Group 11 staff and deployed to Kuwait in January 2003, in support of Operations Southern Watch and Iraqi Freedom. He flew 25 combat missions over the skies of Iraq during March and April 2003.

"It was reassuring to see our training and readiness pay off," he says, "and, although combat is not something anyone desires, it was rewarding to see our preparation, hard work and determination produce successful results."

As of August 2004, Maj. Brooks's career came full circle when he returned to the Naval Academy. Capitalizing on his academy degree and his advanced degree (both degrees in English literature), he asked to fill an opening for an English instructor at the Academy. "I have served in several instructor billets during my career and I find teaching to be very rewarding, so I am excited to return to the Naval Academy as an instructor," says Brooks.

He added, "I believe that my time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy prepared me well for my Marine Corps career; therefore, I am eager to mentor the next generation of Navy and Marine officers and help them to prepare for their commissioned service."

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Maj. Brooks served as the executive officer of VMFA(AW)-121, the "Green Knights," from June 2003 to July 2004, and he states that he was "very sad to leave this great squadron," but, nonetheless, he is excited about the challenges of his Naval Academy instructor billet.

When asked to reflect upon his career and his decision to attend the Naval Academy, Maj. Brooks said: "The Naval Academy was a great experience for me. It was difficult and stressful and it is not the right place for everyone. However, the Academy gave me a solid foundation for my career in the Marine Corps. I would encourage anyone with a strong desire for military service to consider applying to any, or all, of the service academies. It might turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life."

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