NCO gets 15 minutes of fame as stand-in for president
January 23, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 23, 2009) -- Army Staff Sgt. Derrick Brooks has more in common with President Barack Obama than height.
They are both six-foot-two, and they bear more than a passing resemblance. But they also are both biracial and they even each have a daughter named Maliyah, (Brooks) and Malia (Obama).
His similar build was what led to Brooks being selected as a stand-in for the then-president-elect during a Jan. 11 rehearsal of the inaugural swearing-in ceremony, run by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.
Brooks was assigned as the logistics non-commissioned officer in charge for the AFIC Ceremonies Directorate in May 2008, and he said that AFIC's deputy chairman, Navy Rear Adm. Earl Gay, began calling him Staff Sgt. Obama soon after he reported.
Other stand-ins for the first lady, Obama children, vice president and others were in place Jan. 11 on the inaugural platform on the west front of the U.S. Capitol, also chosen by height, weight and ethnicity to allow camera operators to adjust their shots ahead of time. The stand-ins also helped organizers check the timing of movements to ensure the actual ceremony ran as close to time as possible.
Even after being selected, Brooks had no idea how his life was about to change - at least for the short term. The biggest day for AFIC, next to inauguration day itself, was the dress rehearsal, complete with a shortened oath of office and a six-word speech delivered by Brooks, which generated rousing applause from members of the public watching from outside the Capitol grounds.
"Yeah, all I said was "My Fellow Americans," and "God Bless America," and everyone went crazy with applause," he said.
Following his inauguration rehearsal appearance, Brooks was featured on the cover of many major national newspapers and was interviewed by multiple major television news outlets over the following week.
Before the rehearsal, he was able to meet Obama and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies provided his parents with tickets to the actual swearing-in ceremony.
"It was crazy," he said. "I had no idea it would be like this. I didn't realize all this publicity would be involved. I thought I was just doing another military duty and would return to normal duties," said Brooks.
Return to normal duties he did, putting together signs, going through supplies or pulling road guard duties during a fire-alarm drill. As the logistics NCOIC of AFIC's largest directorate, he was responsible for ensuring that his team had critical items like food, water, transportation and hand-and-foot warmers for the cold temperatures Jan. 20.
"Just because I had to respond to these interview requests doesn't mean someone else ensures that my work gets done while I'm away. As a professional NCO, I know I've got to multi-task," Brooks said
For the U.S. Army, 2009 is "The Year of the NCO," and Brooks said he's honored to represent not only the Army but the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps on the world's stage.
Brooks joined the Army right out of high school, and said he'd like to become an Army recruiter so that he can help others who might be going down rocky paths and actually need some positive direction.
Brooks was temporarily assigned to AFIC from the 741st Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Meade, Md., and is a veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He has been awarded the Army Commendation and Army Achievement Medals.
(Staff Sgt. Stephanie P. Abdullah serves with the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee Public Affairs Office.)