Wanted More Out Of Life
by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mary S. Katzenberger
May 9, 2022
Sgt. Shandora R. Brooks is excited about
The petroleum laboratory specialist, deployed here
with the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 264th Combat Sustainment
Support Battalion, is one of many Soldiers staffing her unit’s
support operations center, or SPO.
U.S. Army Sgt. Shandora R. Brooks, a petroleum laboratory specialist assigned to 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, in front of a Humvee parked on Erbil Air Base, Iraq
on April 9, 2022. Brooks has been deployed with her unit since September of 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brett D. Ellis)
Since September of 2021, the 264th CSSB,
through its SPO, has been the sole provider of sustainment support
for U.S. and coalition forces assigned to Combined Joint Task Force
- Operation Inherent Resolve in areas of Iraq and Syria.
Brooks said serving in the Army ... and currently in a combat zone
exposed her to many uncomfortable, but gratifying situations.
“The deployment has been very
rewarding,” the sergeant said. “I came here as an E-5, nonpromotable,
brand new to staff, and brand new to a position.
a lot professionally since I’ve been here,” she continued. “I’ve
learned how to brief, I’ve learned how to forecast fuel, I’ve
learned how to sit in meetings with people of a higher caliber than
me, I’ve obtained my promotable status, and I’ve finished four
Brooks said she is proud of her growth, and
had no idea that when she accepted a $20 bet back in the mid-2000s
that she would be where she is today ... in a state of constant
professional and personal development.
A Wager For A Better Future
Brooks was raised in Valdosta, Georgia, a municipality located
approximately 250 miles north of the Florida state line.
“I wanted more out of life,” the sergeant said. “I was 25 years
old, I had a 2-year old daughter, and I was working at a pharmacy as
a pharmacy technician.
“My daughter was growing up, and it
was in a small town, and I wanted her to be able to see and explore
the world,” Brooks continued. “I knew working at the pharmacy that
that probably wouldn’t happen.”
The sergeant said she had an
interest in serving in the Army, as her best friend had enlisted,
but did not think enlisting was a possibility for her.
started going to PT with my friend just to see if I could do it
[and] get in shape,” Brooks said. “Jokingly one day my friend bet me
20 bucks that the Army would enlist me ... I said they wouldn’t, I was a
single parent ... so I walked to the recruiting office.
took me,” the sergeant said, smiling.
Brooks said her
decision to enlist on January 16, 2016, was the best decision she
had ever made for herself and her daughter, Lauren, at that time,
and one that continues to benefit her family today.
“I am now
married to a Soldier, and we have an 8-year-old daughter and a
1-year-old son,” the sergeant said. “I think being in the military
is the best thing I could have ever done for my children, they have
stability and they’re able to travel the world.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Shandora R. Brooks, a petroleum laboratory specialist assigned to 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, poses with her husband, Vincent, daughter, Lauren, and son, Gavin. (Photo courtesy of
U.S. Army Sgt. Shandora R. Brooks)
said military service provided opportunities for growth right out of
First there was basic combat training at Fort
Jackson, South Carolina, where Brooks said she took on a motherly
role and served as a mentor to younger Soldiers. Then there was
moving to her first duty station ... Fort Campbell, Kentucky ... and having
to learn how to balance the demands of military service with her
responsibilities as a single parent.
“My daughter and I
learned what a village was at Fort Campbell,” Brooks said. “I was
away from home, so I had to build a family there with my unit and my
While serving at Fort Campbell, Brooks met her
husband, Vincent. The two Soldiers have since married, have had a
son together ... Gavin ... and have conducted a permanent change of station
to Fort Bragg.
In that time Brooks also became a
“Pinning E-5 was scary for me, but
overall it was a good experience,” Brooks said. “I pinned at
two-and-a-half years into the Army, so I was still fresh, learning
my job, and perfecting my craft.”
The sergeant said she
sought to become an NCO because she knew she had the potential to be
a leader the Army needs.
“Just growing up in the Army, I saw
my NCOs and the way they handled things ... some good, some bad ... and I
knew I wanted to be a leader to make a positive impact on the Army
overall and on the Soldiers that are coming up in the ranks under
us,” she said.
“The part of the NCO creed that means the most
to me is, ‘All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership, I
will provide that leadership,’ [and] I always wanted to ensure my
Soldiers were provided good leadership at all times, at all levels,
and that even if I couldn’t help them with the issue, I could
elevate the issue up so that we could help them,” Brooks continued.
The sergeant said she has embraced the challenges of the role
with open arms.
“Some positive aspects I’ve had about
becoming an NCO is when Soldiers come back and thank you for
whatever you’ve done,” she said. “I love that about being an NCO, I
love having someone that looks up to me and I can give advice to
them, or mentorship, or guidance.
“There are definitely
challenges with being an NCO,” Brooks continued. “Sometimes you have
to put the job in front of your family, you put personal things
aside to complete the mission.”
The sergeant said she has
worked hard during the deployment to open the gate to the next rank
of staff sergeant. She attended the promotion board three times
before she received a “go.”
Reflecting on her service up to April
of 2022, Brooks said she her service has helped her to grow and
mature in many aspects of her life.
used to be very introverted, I didn’t talk to many people, but being
in the military, networking is everything,” the sergeant said. “I
think it has helped me to be dependent on other people, to allow
people to help me with things, and to not be so dismissive of people
trying to give you help or trying to give you advice.”
the deployment here, Brooks said she has learned a lot from her
colleagues and superiors, and from working with service members in
the coalition forces.
And, through all that, the sergeant
said she has done her best to continue to play an active role in the
lives of her family members.
Brooks said she is grateful for
the United Services Organization’s Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program
as it has helped her and her daughter remain connected.
“Those moments are everything, I’ve had really rough times here
where I’m just mentally drained,” the sergeant said. “Just being
able to go and get on video with her and read, it helps me, it
“It lets me know that even though I’m
away ... because sometimes I just struggle with just being a mom and
leaving your children ... that, ‘Okay, I can do this, we’re okay, I’m
alright, we’re going to make it through this, I haven’t failed as a
parent because I’m here,’” Brooks said.
The sergeant said
regardless of missing her husband, daughter, and son, she would not
change anything for the world.
“My daughter looks up to me,”
Brooks said. “I always wanted to give her a good life and something
to look forward to and someone to be proud of.”
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