The Navy Officer | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
"You are expendable. Live accordingly."
GET TO KNOW MEGHAN
Meet Meghan Brooks. She’s a damage control assistant for the Navy and works on USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship based out of San Diego. Keep scrolling to learn more about Meghan’s day to day and what inspired her to pursue the military in the first place.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I was inspired to become a Navy officer by a long line of women from all branches of the military who worked hard to overcome odds and adversity to serve alongside men. It was only 1993 when Congress approved women to serve on combat ships, which is what I do. In college, I desperately wanted to do something particularly challenging, something that would change me, something honorable and something that I will, years from now, tell my grandchildren about.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
I overcame a lot of self-doubt to become the confident and consistent leader I am today. I think some of the internal battles we face are sometimes the hardest.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
One of the reasons Gamma Phi Beta means so much to me is because upon joining I was instantly impacted by my Big Sister, Chelsea Ostebo. She motivated me to become a leader not only within Gamma Phi Beta but also within my entire university. I learned so much about sisterhood and leadership from her. She always mentored and motivated me to take on the next big challenge. By sophomore year, I was on executive council in the Sorority, student government and by junior year I was holding internships at political consulting firms and the U.S. Department of State. I would later be moved to serve and lead in the military. I owe it all to Chelsea because before I met her on Bid Day, I had never thought of myself as a leader. I didn’t know the first thing about it. She really shaped my college years, and in turn, where I am now.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the comradery. I would argue you will never know comradery until you have served in the military. You work with the same people who you also fight fires next to and track and engage hostile air contacts with. At night, you sleep one rack above or below them. You work out, laugh, cry, complain, clean, swab the decks, eat chow, stand watch throughout the night, and miss home with them.
Beach or Mountains
Apple or Android
Staycation or Vacation
Stripes or Polka Dots
Left Brain or Right Brain
Boss Lady Icon
Can't Live Without
My Great Dane, Margo!
Autumn (in New England)!
Ivanka Trump, Kate Middleton and Tory Burch
Describe yourself in three words.
Your life philosophy is…
You are expendable. Live accordingly.
What is the best piece of advice you received?
Be a good person first; everything else is second. No matter your rank, position or paycheck, be a good person first. Take care of the people under your charge like your life depends on it. They are your greatest asset.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
I have been to a lot of interesting places in the Navy, but my all-time favorite place that I would go back to in a heartbeat is Ireland. Part of my family is from County Cork in Southern Ireland. I love the good-hearted people, the traditions, the countryside and the music. I would go there any day first!
What’s something you cannot live without?
My parents. They are kind to every person they meet, and they teach me to be the same.
Name a book you read that positively shaped you.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is unforgettable in the way it communicates and instills human decency in us.
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
I have always been interested in politics, intelligence and international affairs. In a completely different sense, because it is so different from what I do now, I think it would be amazing to own my own business and work for myself.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
I hang out with my Great Dane, Margo. We call her “Big Mo,” too. She is the gentlest soul I have ever met and instantly lifts every worry off my shoulders or sadness from my heart. I like taking her to the dog beach. I can take her anywhere and she instantly brightens any strangers’ day.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
I lead sailors and marines on combat ships at sea. I think that speaks for itself. In my opinion, I lead some of the finest young men and women our country has to offer. They are from every walk of life but what they all have in common is they are the fighting spirit of our country. As the damage control assistant (DCA) on a 42,000-ton amphibious assault ship, I take control of all damage control and firefighting efforts in the event of (at the worst, catastrophic) casualties that could happen as a result of a missile strike, mine or torpedo hit or collision at sea. I command, control and direct hundreds of sailors across ten repair lockers in fighting fires, flooding or structural damage and defense against chemical or biological attacks. They are the ones who are putting their lives on hold to save the ship. To run towards fire or dive into a flooding compartment to save another is a thought not a lot of us can fathom, but what my sailors are willing to do and what I direct them to do. It is a dangerous job, but it is amazing, humbling and motivating to see my sailors put the ship, mission and each other in front of themselves if we take a hit. We have a phrase in the Navy, “ship, shipmate, self” which is deep-seated in each sailor.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Two things, really. First, that you can be all sorts of people in one. You do not have to fit one mold throughout your whole life. If you have the best manicure and eyelashes at the gun range or whole engineering plant, good for you. Don’t be less of yourself. Second, you can (and should) be friends with people who hold different views or beliefs than your own. I think in today’s political climate we have gravely lost touch with that concept to the point we polarize ourselves from a lot of people who we could learn from.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I read the Bible. It gets me calibrated back to what is most important. The One who created us all had greater plans for us than we do. I remind myself not to let any small worry surpass that.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
The best investment I have made has been saving my energy on people and things that matter to me. In this social media generation, we spend too much time and energy focusing on people and things that do nothing for us. A massive weight is lifted when you “Marie Kondo” all the negative people and things that drain you rather than inspire you.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
Admiral Michelle Howard. A few years ago, she became the first female African American Navy admiral in our country’s history. She is an inspiring leader for all but especially female sailors and officers.