Holloman Solar Observatory mechanic actualizes childhood dream

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christine Groening
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

He is part of a team who gathers data on solar phenomena – that of solar flares, emissions from the sun, radio and optical interference.

Everett Brooks, 2d Weather Squadron, Detachment 4, integrated systems mechanic, has been stationed here since 1995, where he retired as a technical sergeant. He specializes in maintenance on the Solar Observing Optical Network and is responsible for inspecting the other two sites around the world, which are located in Australia and Italy. He brings a team of one to two, to assist and train with overhauling and inspecting.

The data the solar observatory collects is used by National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic Administration. The information is used to provide the space satellite operations, microwave relay and communications.

“It’s very important to the Air Force, the United States and other countries around the world,” Brooks said. “The information shared helps the world know when there’s a solar event and prevents the high-dollar satellites from being damaged in space. And of course, it is important to the astronauts and in the space station—it prevents them from being radiated during a solar event.”

As a child, Brooks had the dream of being a fireman but came to the realization that it was a dangerous job saving people. Little did he know that he would be saving people in another way.  When growing up, he had interest in the Apollo Program, therefor he was able to align his childhood love for the Apollo Program and moon with his current position.   

“I was an ‘Air Force Brat,’ so we moved around a lot,” Brooks said. “You kind of see the world and get a view of what is really out there. I liked mechanical stuff, like building and pulling things apart, so that’s the direction I went into – that’s why I’m in maintenance.”

His father was in the military for 26 years as a C-130 propeller maintenance technician, and he propelled him into joining the Air Force.

“He was very dedicated to his job, like I am with mine,” Brooks exclaimed. “He instilled in me that hard work will get you better set up for life. I learned from him to be dedicated to your mission and that it may not be perfect every day, but you’re there to do a job, so do it the best you can.”

Living at home after high school, Brooks had been laid off from a job and the economy had taken a turn for the worse.

“I wasn’t against joining the military, but it definitely wasn’t my first choice,” Brooks said. “But then the more I thought about it, I realized my father was right--they’ll teach me a skill, pay me to do it, so why not give it a try.”

Four years prior to joining the solar program, Brooks worked as an airfield systems maintainer.

“I joined the Air Force in August 1982 at 20 years old,” Brooks said. “I was doing electronics maintenance for airfield systems, taking care of the stuff on the airfield to ensure the aircraft would launch and land. We essentially gathered information for the forecasters, and observed conditions for flying and recovering aircraft.”

And in 1987, while stationed in Fort Worth, Texas, he received a phone call from the solar program manager asking if would be interested in joining the solar program and if he would be willing to move to Australia for a four-year tour, where he provided preventative level maintenance. He was ready to move onto something new -- he was not going to turn down the opportunity.

“Initially they told us three (people) were applying for the job,” Brooks said. “I think that they picked me because I was willing to go to Australia for four years and I was constantly calling for updates. I think the perseverance really showed that I wanted the job too.”

Brooks did his four years in Australia, and then moved back to Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, for another 22 months. He was then sent back to the solar observatory in Australia. Finally, his final stop – Holloman.

“I’m very passionate about my job and the mission I have,” he said. “I always keep it in the back of my mind about how to keep systems going, to where I have dreams about being at work.”

Since working in this field, Brooks mentioned he’s learned how to operate and maintain optical mirrors, lenses, and how the sun’s light moves through the camera. Ultimately, the job has taught him how to work in the electro-mechanical field.

Brooks has 23 years of experience working at Holloman and loves the work he has accomplished. He mentioned his proudest moments in life so far have been getting the specialist job and winning Senior Civilian of the Year for 12th Air Force in 2012.

He is hoping to stay here another 10 years to further lead and train incoming Airmen and to pass on his legacy.

“I want (the Airmen) to learn so they don’t have to rely on me for things,” Brooks said. “The travelling and long days get tiresome, but if you’ve done it enough you adapt. And, I like taking these new people with me to teach them and knowing that they’ll be able to do it when I’m no longer here.”