AL ASAD, Iraq -- In a time where deployments and operational tempos have increased, days spent with friends and family members can be few and far between. One Philadelphia family knows this better than most, dealing with consecutive deployments for the last two years.
Two of those family members, Cpls. John and Sheila Brooks, are serving concurrently at Al Asad.
John, a tactical networking data specialist with 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines, is preparing to return to the states, while his sister, a combat cameraman with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, just started her year-long deployment.
Their younger brother Bryan, a former Marine, started the chain when he deployed to Iraq at the end of 2004. Sheila deployed for the first time shortly after Bryan returned. Soon after Sheila’s return, John left on his current deployment to Al Asad.
“By the time Sheila gets back, it’ll be three years straight that my mom will have someone in Iraq,” said John.
Despite the constant deployments, both Marines say their family has dealt relatively well with the situation.
“Our family deals with (deployments) the same way as any other family. They’ve just had to deal with it constantly,” said John. “All the stuff in the news is how Army troops and Marines are re-deploying a lot quicker than they thought, but they are still having a year or so in between.”
Both Marines try to call home at least once a week, in addition to sending e-mails to their family members as often as they can, according to John.
The Brooks family is no stranger to life in the military, the two Marines come from a long line of military service.
“My grandfather was in the Navy and my father joined the Marine Corps,” said John. “I have an uncle on my father’s side that was in the Navy, and I have another uncle on my mother’s side that was in the Marine Corps.”
John, a reservist, said he joined the Marines because he needed some direction and discipline in his life. Sheila, who recently re-enlisted for her second tour, said she joined the military for the same reasons, but chose the Corps for different reasons.
“I guess you could say I did follow in my brothers’ and my dad’s footsteps,” said Sheila. “They tried to get me to go into something like the Air Force, something that wouldn’t be so demanding. But, being myself, I wanted to be with the best. I didn’t want them to be Marines, and then I go into the Air Force and be the odd man out.”
Because of conflicting schedules, the two Marines find it a little difficult to spend time with each other while deployed, according to Sheila.
“He works different hours than I do,” said Sheila. “He works nights and I work days, so it’s hard for us to be able to spend a lot of time together. The first day I got here I went over in the morning and saw him. We’ve had lunch together one time. On Sundays, I try to go over to his unit and they have steaks.”
Although both Marines say that having a sibling nearby on deployment has its advantages, they also agree that family time is better spent at home.
“I like the fact that on Sundays I can go over and see him,” added Sheila. “I look forward to those days. I love the fact that he’s here, but I’m happy that he gets to go home.”