By Staff Sgt. Frank O'Brien, 29th Infantry DivisionMarch 27, 2017
CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT -- Master Sgt. Donald "Brooks" Young of the Virginia Army National Guard's 29th Infantry Division, currently deployed in support of Operation Spartan Shield here, has been nominated for the Army's prestigious Outstanding Volunteer Award for his long hours of contribution to at least six separate organizations.
The requirements for the award are 3 years of volunteer service or 500 hours. Young regularly volunteers over 300 hours a year. Most prominently his service is with the United Services Organization, or USO, an organization which supports service members by keeping them connected to home.
"This is the third USO where I've volunteered," said Young who also volunteered to deploy with the 29th Inf. Div. "I currently have 225 volunteer hours here. I'll probably reach 300 before we leave. The first USO where I volunteered was in Qatar. At the Norfolk airport USO back home I volunteer about 250 to 300 hours."
When not volunteering on deployments, Young also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, Clean the Bay, high school events, Air Force air shows, and 5K runs.
"Anything to raise money," said Young. "I walk, my wife runs."
The award nomination is a culmination of a lifetime of service to his country. Young, a native of Hickory, Miss. (pop. 776) "The Little Town with a Big Heart", enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard's 4th Battalion, 114th Field Artillery as a Junior in high school. At the time he had spiked hair and was "going through a Miami Vice phase." For over three decades, all of them with the National Guard, he's kept his high school mustache, but not the hair, and now resembles a bald Burt Reynolds.
Young's 30-year National Guard career has taken him all over the U.S. and many of the states covered in the movie "Smokey and the Bandit" including Florida, Georgia and Alabama. With so many states visited, it is perhaps fitting that his current job specialty is a Motor Transport Operator and supervisor. His home unit is the Emporia-based 1710th Transportation Company, 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group, where he is a senior truck master.
"The Army has taken me places I never would have gone on my own and I'm grateful for it," said Young.
Before joining the 1710th Transportation Co. he was an instructor at the Virginia National Guard's 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, or RTI, where he has trained hundreds of students. He transferred from the RTI in Georgia to accompany his wife who had joined the Air Force and went to her first duty assignment in Virginia.
"I thoroughly enjoy teaching people to drive," said Brooks who also holds the Army's Driver and Mechanic badge. "You see them -- the students -- not getting it and not getting it and then you get to see the light come on."
Helping others and teaching is something that comes naturally to Brooks according to Lindsay Dolan, USO duty manager and volunteer coordinator at Camp Arifjan who teaches orientation classes for volunteers and works with Young.
"I've learned a lot. He's very knowledgeable. Always ready to get the job done and share his knowledge with others," Dolan said.
Young has a lot of knowledge to share. In addition to teaching firearms safety and federal safety procedures post-9/11 at airports, he holds five Army military occupational skills as a Cannon Crewmember, Air and Missile Defense Crewmember, Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) operator, Air Defense Tactical Operations Center Operator, and Motor Transport Operator. Young also deployed to the country of Georgia where he exchanged information with Georgian Soldiers through interpreters.
Young hopes his service sets an example for others that encourages a culture of volunteerism.
"I like to empower people," said Young. "Don't be afraid to volunteer. It's taken me a lot of places…met a lot of fascinating people and it's made for an exciting life."
When asked how he manages to do it all, Young credited the support of his wife who will soon be promoted and transferred to a new duty station. Young will accompany her.
"Before retirement, I'd like to live in one more state if I could," he said.