ARLINGTON, Va. – Only about 3% of those in the Army are warrant officers, and rarer still are those who have reached the top warrant officer rank – chief warrant officer 5. So, it was even more unusual to get the opportunity to pin on that rank in a double ceremony with one’s spouse.
For Brian and Shelly Brooks, both assigned to the National Guard Bureau, that’s exactly what happened when the two were promoted to Chief Warrant Officer 5 in a ceremony at the Herbert R. Temple Jr. Army National Guard Readiness Center, Arlington Hall Station in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 21.
“Today marks a special day for not only Brian and myself but our family,” said Shelly, the senior signal warrant officer for the Army Guard information technology directorate. “We’ve finally reached the pinnacle of our careers and can see that retirement rainbow on the horizon, but there is still work to be done.”
The couple, married for 13 years, have a combined 68 years of military service. They served as a warrant officer in a joint environment and at the battalion, troop command, and brigade levels before coming to NGB in 2018. Brian, the senior ground maintenance warrant officer for the Army Guard’s logistics directorate, said the two are blessed to serve at the NGB together and that he’s especially proud to be promoted alongside Shelly.
“Watching Shelly make that top rank makes me really proud,” he said. “I’ve seen her hard work firsthand. A lot of these things that I see, her boss doesn’t even see because she’s doing it at home, she’s doing it on a weekend.”
The journey to the top rank has been long but rewarding, said Brain. It started for him in December 1983 when he enlisted as a construction equipment repairer in the Iowa Army National Guard’s 224th Engineer Battalion. He became a warrant officer in June 1997.
Shelly enlisted in the Colorado Army National Guard as a military police officer in May 1990. Following a short break in service, she re-entered the Army Guard in December 1992 and graduated to the warrant officer ranks in 2003.
The two met three years later while serving at the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Regional Training Institute Warrant Officer Candidate School at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.
At the time, both were TAC – training, advising and counseling – officers in charge of training for warrant officer candidates at the school.
Their relationship had an inauspicious start.
“At first, I didn’t even like Shelly,” Brian said.
“He actually hated me,” Shelly added.
Those initial feelings changed, however. The two bonded over raw oysters — one of Shelly’s least favorite foods — in the summer of 2008.
“I told him that I would eat a raw oyster only if he would, too,” said Shelly. “So, I did, without a cracker or hot sauce or anything. It was disgusting. Then he tells me that he is allergic to shellfish and couldn’t eat oysters.”
They were married on Dec. 25, 2008. Each brought two children from previous relationships and have since had two together. In all, the Brooks family includes six children, six grandchildren and one grand-puppy.
The Brooks credit their faith and family for their success — as well as their warrant officer training.
“Candidate school taught us effective time-management and prioritization skills,” she said. “There’s also teamwork instilled in all Soldiers. We work well together, and we’ve done it for the last 13 years.”
That’s also led to their drive to learn and grow their skills continually. For Shelly, that meant recently completing a master’s degree in information technology with a cyber emphasis. She said that helps her carry on the warrant officer standard of being the technical expert.
But being the technical expert is only the beginning. The best warrant officers, said Shelly, are those who aren’t afraid to speak up. And in her current rank, that’s one of the things she said she’ll continue to encourage throughout the ranks of the warrant officer corps.
“You could be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t communicate effectively up and down the chain of command, then being a warrant officer is not for you,” she said. “We have to be approachable leaders and have to be honest with senior leaders, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
Brian and Shelly said they look forward to the challenges that come with being at the top of their field.
“If you want to tell the Army what you’re really good at and what you want to do for your career, become a warrant officer,” Shelly said.