Get Your Bounce Back

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ebony Brooks poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 18, 2020. Brooks wrote a commentary about her time in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Thomas S. Keisler IV)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ebony Brooks poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Italy, June 18, 2020. Brooks wrote a commentary about her time in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Thomas S. Keisler IV)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

If you would have told me, as an Airman Basic, that I would be in the United States Air Force today, I would have laughed and rolled my eyes with that New York swag I have. I am Tech. Sgt. Ebony H. Brooks and I have a story to tell you. 

I believe that every Airman has a story. Sometimes that story is hidden behind fear, doubt, confusion or untapped potential. I believe that all of our stories start off much like, “I only planned on finishing out my enlistment, to finish my education and get out.”

Well here I am, 14 years and 8 months later laughing at that Airman Basic who thought she had it all figured out. Until one day, I realized that like many others, that plan fell by the wayside of the hustle and bustle of military work life.

See, I grew up in Brooklyn and had a passion for fashion design, writing and criminal justice. These desires are the complete opposite, I can assure you they are. Those passions dwindled after I relocated to Florida with my father and took care of him until he passed away. I know that he would be very proud of me and some days I still wish he was here.

Life was a little rough for me then, but I had to figure something out. I always stood on my faith, as a Christian believer, all I knew was Jesus Christ and what my father would always preach to me: “you can do anything you put your mind to.” That always stuck with me. After realizing that traditional college was not the route I wanted to take, I was convinced to join the Air Force by my cousin, who at the time was a photojournalist and a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. He was stationed at Dover AFB, Delaware.

After seeing how all the other branches were, I’m really glad I chose to join the Air Force.

Let’s push forward to February 2006, when I landed in Frankfurt, Germany headed to my first duty station: Ramstein Air Base. Life was a bit uncertain living in a new country, adapting to a new culture and language. Traveling Europe, working and meeting people who are still my friends to this day, is an experience that one can only dream of. But after a while, one can get lost. I looked up and three tours later I made Staff Sgt. and I needed to make a decision about my future.” I really did not know what to do…So, I reenlisted.

Life had not been as I had planned, I told myself in the start of it all what I wanted to do, but as a traditional personnelist (3F0X1), I became lost in the grind of the demands of the Air Force. I have a great work ethic and a drive that is unreal but I did not have one for my personal life. When our drive is geared in the wrong direction, our outcome will be that of disappointment. At this point I had numerous people advise me to complete my CCAF, finish my degrees and really become well balanced. But that’s what happens when you focus so much on work without thinking about self-reflecting on who you are as a person and who you would like to become. I had gotten lost in it all then, after reenlistment to reenlistment I found myself. Yes, I found myself. At my ten year mark, I decided that something had to give. Either, I would remain in the Air Force and give it all I got, or I would get out with nothing to my name. I also decided that my Airmen underneath me deserved more from me as an NCO. They deserved more than an NCO that just sits behind a desk.

I had to do some digging, some soul searching and a lot of praying. I asked God for the strength to remain focused, accomplish my goals and to really continue to evaluate my personal and professional life as an Airman and as a person. No matter how far you go as an Airmen, never lose sight of you are as a person. I decided that I no longer just wanted to get by in life by just working, coming home and repeating the same cycle. I knew that there had to be more to life than work, home, bills, reading the Bible and frustration.

So, I made a list of all I wanted to accomplish. That consisted of completing my CCAF and getting my Bachelors. I decided that I had to just do it. I started with what I could do on my end that was practical. I walked into the education office, asked them to see how many classes I had left in order to complete my CCAF and then from there, I started taking classes. One class after the next, after the next, then in 2018, I finally completed my CCAF. Boy, was I proud. Some may have laughed at me, and that was alright. Some have cheered me on, and I thanked them. Others, meh….that was cool, too. At the end of the day all that mattered was that I became true to myself. I took care of myself, both professionally and personally.  

But, it does not stop there. Oh no, it gets bigger and better. My love for writing and the desire to publish my own books inspired me to write about my experience about all it took to complete my CCAF. I did write about it, and with the help of my team, it’s soon to be published. I had another season in my life where I had to sit down with myself and do some reevaluating. I came to a fork in the road and could not decide on whether I wanted to continue on with my Bachelors in Human Resources Management or do something completely different. This thought actually scared me – at first.

I no longer look at opportunities to start over as being a burden, but, instead I charge it, full on knowing that this is another opportunity for me to conquer whatever it is that I need to conquer in order to propel forward. As I thought truthfully on what I could do, it clicked. I said why not get both degrees? Why not go for my Criminal Justice and HR? And I did. I just completed my Minors in Criminal Justice and I am about 15 classes away from my Bachelor’s Degree.

During this time, I had gone on to publish two more books. I have my own podcast, I blog, I have my own YouTube channel and I am working on my fourth book. You may be thinking, well what about your military career? Well, I could ask you the same thing - what about it exactly? I am not going to say it’s a walk in the park because it’s not. I have to be very intentional about how I utilize my time and my daily tasks (setting minor and major goals). I have to maintain a schedule, and discipline is my best friend. I run an office and have a wonderful team of great Airmen who are extremely talented, inspiring, and comical and also have great work ethics. Our office motto is “team work makes the dream work.”

I write you this not to brag, but to hopefully inspire you, to inspire other Airmen who will come after me and who are coming up with me, to go after everything you said you would go after. I am also telling you my story because I know that there are others out there in the Armed Forces who were like me. You need that extra push. You need that self-evaluation. To dig deep and to realize that who you are can be better. I know that there are others out there in the Armed Forces who are doing amazing things with their gifts and talents. I tell you to go after everything you promised yourself. Do it all, if you can. And if you can’t at this very moment, never lose sight of your dreams. Hold them dear to you so that one day, when you are done with the Air Force, or when you decided that it is time for something greater, you will have another dream to smash. I believe that if we all tell our story, then maybe we can encourage someone to finish what they have started. Then they can be proud to tell their story, just like how I am telling you mine.