Finding niche with service
By Ann Robson, Special to OutreachNC
Photography by Mollie Tobias Photography
Sgt. Maj. Christine Brockman recently told an ‘Equal Opportunity’ class, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
The saying applies to Brockman in many ways. When you first hear the term “sergeant major,” your mental picture likely has a tall burly man in uniform. Instead, Brockman is petite, not quite five-feet tall, with a warm, welcoming smile.
A dedicated member of the U.S. Army, Brockman joined at age 17; her mother had to sign a permission slip for her. In her U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy class of 660, only 60 were female.
There is a “history of the military” in her family. Her grandfather was in the Navy for 32 years. Her mother’s patriotism “overflowed.” She lost her father at an early age, and for years, Brockman was influenced by her mother’s strength and belief in God and country. A sad twist of fate happened when her mother died just after Brockman completed her basic training.
“I had no one else so the Army became my family,” she says.
It continues to mean a great deal to her as does her country.
“When I went to basic training, I could barely do a push-up, and I’d never fired a gun.”
After the basic soldier training, there is an individual skills training, and Brockman excelled at clerk/typist, and office management.
She joined the Army Reserve Command, explaining that every reserve unit has a regular Army person attached to it to take care of the many details of moving a group of people around and planning their duties. Now that the reserves are called more and more to active duty, Brockman’s job is more encompassing. Her career has had many different stages from Vogelweh, Germany, where she met her husband. She took the non-commissioned officer training at Fort Snelling in Minnesota and became an administrative assistant. In St. Louis, she was part of the marketing team—not recruiting, she emphasizes. One of her favorite posts was to the Joint Military Command in the Washington, D.C. area, where she was a liaison with the CIA serving at Langley. From there she went to the Joint Forces Command in Florida.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on Brockman, who hates the “ramp” of flag-draped coffins, many of them containing the bodies of friends. The disrespect shown by some groups at military funerals is annoying, but she is very grateful for the Rolling Thunder chapters, an advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and missing in action service members of all U.S. wars.
Brockman was deployed four times to Qatar, and over a period of 24 months, she has been sent to Afghanistan six times on joint missions to see what those deployed are feeling, doing and what they need in terms of support. She then works on helping to meet those needs. Photographs show her in full battle gear, for her own protection, but she almost gets lost in the gear. This part of her job is important as she can directly relay to the leadership at home how things are really going with her “boys.”
Now at Fort Bragg, Brockman serves as the Equal Opportunity Sergeant Major and is only the second person to hold this position. Through the public affairs group, she is available to make speaking presentations and recently gave a stirring address at the Country Club of Whispering Pines’ Memorial Day celebration.
Brockman has had to explain “equal opportunity” to many that this is not a civil rights issue.
“Getting people to understand that has been difficult. Equal opportunity is for everyone,” she stresses. “I believe in treating people fairly.”
Brockman and her family, husband Jim, and sons Nick, a college junior, and Eli at home, live the equal opportunity creed. When Brockman was first offered a career path, Jim cut back on his military duties and is now a full-time Dad, who home-schools Eli as they did with their Nick. The family now resides in Harnett County, just east of Cameron.
Early in her career, a superior officer took the time to write Brockman a letter, not part of her permanent record, saying that “You have infectious enthusiasm and are a breath of fresh air.” She hasn’t changed. She is still a fiercely patriotic, enthusiastic breath of fresh air.