FORT SILL, Okla., July 30, 2020 -- The oldest air defense battalion in the active Army - 4th Battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery, which was constituted May 8, 1794 in the Regular Army as the 3rd Company, 4th Battalion, Corps of Artillerists and Engineers - recently acquired one of the Army’s newest Green to Gold Active Duty Option (ADO) candidates.Actually, Staff Sgt. Brandi Brooks was already assigned to the battalion, and deployed in the Middle East with it, when the announcement of her selection as an ADO candidate was made in January.At the time of the announcement, Brooks’ tenure as a squad leader was drawing to a close. So, she assumed the duties of a Patriot launcher platoon sergeant for about the last five months of her second and most recent combat tour in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.The 27-year-old Denver native graduated Aurora (Colorado) Central High School  in 2011. She then worked the concession stands during Colorado Rockies baseball games until leaving for basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the following January.Upon graduation from Advanced Individual Training here at Fort Sill with a 14T Patriot Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer military occupational specialty, Brooks was assigned to A Battery, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery at Fort Bliss, Texas.It was there, a little over eight years ago now, on the sprawling Army post headquartered at El Paso, a facility that spans more than 1 million acres of land in Texas and New Mexico - excellent hardscrabble terrain for maneuvering on a grand scale and for launching missiles and other long-range projectiles - where Brooks experienced an epiphany.Her assistant squad leader, Sgt. 1st Class Adam Belvin, set aside time during an otherwise routine duty day to ask this young Soldier, only recently assigned her first duty station, what her military aspirations and life goals were.“I told him I wanted to get my bachelor’s,” Brooks recalls of her answer, while a private first class and new to the ways of the military.At the time, she believed that obtaining her college degree while soldiering on was simply not possible, and that meant she would have to leave the Army at some point to pursue her education.“My assistant squad leader told me that if I were selected for this one certain program, I could stay in the Army, continue to draw my pay and allowances while in school for two years, complete and earn my (bachelor’s) degree, and be commissioned an Army officer,” Brooks said.Instantly intrigued by those myriad possibilities, she listened intently to what Belvin had to say. “And that’s when I first heard all about the Green to Gold ADO program,” she said.“It’s been an eight-year process since then really, working hard to meet the program’s prerequisites,” Brooks said. “For me, almost exclusively, that has meant adding college hours.”Eight years ago, Brooks started her quest toward earning her bachelor’s degree and donning those second lieutenant bars with no college credits to her name. While a three-year assignment in Germany and two CENTCOM combat theater deployments sometimes changed up the pace of her forward progress, nothing squelched her perseverance.The program requires a minimum of 60 college credits and a 2.5 GPA.Brooks’ application packet last November reflected her 87 credits (with an associate degree in general studies) and a cumulative 3.49 GPA.A Green to Gold applicant must score a minimum of 180 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test, with 60 points in each of the three events.“I worked really hard during 4-3rd ADA’s deployment on improving my PT test score,” she said. “I maxed the run and the pushups, but missed maxing the sit-ups by four.”Brooks scored 296 points (out of 300) on her record APFT, submitted as part of her application packet.Her last two NCO evaluation reports were “top block” performance evaluations, and she received exceptionally strong letters of recommendation from Capt. Peter Hughes and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Porter, her battery and battalion commanders. Brooks is convinced that all these particular documents weighed heavily in her favor during the selection process.Brooks estimates that of all the active-duty Soldiers who applied for this year’s Green to Gold ADO program, 1,000 met the essential requirements. Of those applicants, perhaps only one in three were selected as candidates.“I have a friend at Fort Bragg (North Carolina) who also applied in November,” Brooks said. “We applied together, but as it turned out she wasn’t selected.”Ironically, news of Brooks’ selection reached her through an unexpected communications channel, via congratulatory text message from her friend.Brooks got the good news while on shift during her most recent deployment to the Middle East.After sharing word of her apparent selection with not just her assistant squad leader Sgt. Allen Trevino but with her whole squad, Brooks latched onto a computer and called up the list. “There I am!” she exclaimed, spying her name.“I was extremely excited by the news,” Brooks said, adding, “especially knowing how competitive the candidate selection process is.”Occasionally, the program’s selection lists tighten to a point whereby a scant 150 of the most highly qualified applicants are accepted.While Brooks is greatly interested in completing a bachelor’s in communications, she’s not yet chosen which, if either, to focus on - print or broadcast media.In selecting the university where she could finish her degree as a Green to Gold ADO Army ROTC cadet and receive a commission as an Army second lieutenant, Brooks winnowed her several candidates to a final three:  Cameron University, here; Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina; and Bowie State University near Bowie, Maryland.Ultimately, Brooks chose Bowie State.“They made me feel like I was a priority to them,” she explained. During the entire months-long Green to Gold application process, “they genuinely cared that I was a potential Green to Gold candidate” who was interested in enrolling at their university.“Especially Miss Montrose Robinson, the Recruiting Operations Officer at Bowie State,” Brooks continued. “She has helped me with everything I need regarding my course of study, credit hours, and even with setting me up with a faculty adviser, whom I’ve met.”Turns out, there’s an added plus for Brooks attending school in Maryland. Her father, Herman Brown, a 14-year Air Force veteran, lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, about a six-hour drive away.“I want to have a 4.0 GPA when I graduate from Bowie State,” and to be named both a Distinguished Military Student and Distinguished Military Graduate, Brooks said.Brooks believes that if she graduates while academically ranked in the top 10 percent or better in the nation, she’ll be able to pick her officer branch specialty within the Army, as well as her first duty location.“I love wearing the uniform and doing my job,” Brooks said. “I’d be OK retiring with 25 years service, as a lieutenant colonel.”“Shoot for the stars!” Brooks encourages others. “See how far you can go in the Army.”Many people don’t know that in addition to completing the last two years of a bachelor’s degree via the Green to Gold program - as is Brooks’ current post-secondary school objective - Soldiers may also apply to attend graduate school through the program.Soldiers interested in obtaining a two-year graduate degree and an officer’s commission while remaining on active duty may submit either a Green to Gold two-year scholarship, nonscholarship, or ADO application packet.Questions about either completing a bachelor’s or earning a two-year graduate degree and receiving an officer’s commission, may be directed to usarmy.knox.usacc.mbx.train2lead@mail.mil/, the Green to Gold program manager.