A 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation manager has served more than 30 years in both active-duty and Reserve status in the U.S. Air Force but started his career with a stint in the Royal Air Force, the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces.
Born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England, in 1959, Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Brook is one of a small minority of Air Force reservists who were not born as U.S. citizens. He moved to the U.S. in his mid-20s.
It was early in life that military service peaked his interest. His father served in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy when he was a young man and spoke fondly of his experience, but that wasn’t quite what drove the young Brook to service. It was a visit to his high school by the Royal Air Force Band that set in motion a military career spanning 37 years and counting.
Soon after his graduation from Dudderston Manor High School, Brook enlisted in the RAF as a vehicle operator. He served at RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, then on to Allied Forces Central Europe, a NATO base in Holland. There he met his wife Jackie, an American who was serving with the U.S. Army.
They were married in 1979 while both still serving at AFCENT. Jackie separated from the Army soon after and Brook was reassigned to RAF Honnington in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk County, England, where he finished out his RAF enlistment. In 1983 the couple moved to the U.S., but Brook wanted to continue his military service.
Working at AFCENT, Brook had a lot of exposure to how the U.S. Air Force operated. He and his wife decided that they would like to continue traveling and living the military lifestyle, so he enlisted in the Air force in 1983 and left for basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
Brook’s first assignment was as a vehicle operator at the 832nd Transportation Squadron, Luke AFB.
“Joining the U.S. Air Force wasn’t a huge leap for me, as I had worked with them so much at AFCENT,” he said.
It was during an assignment back in England from 1985 to 1989 that he discovered he couldn’t re-enlist unless he became a U.S. citizen. He quickly complied.
“The citizenship office was impressed that I had travelled so far just to put in my application,” he said. “They expedited the process and within two days I was sworn in.”
Two assignments and nine years later the Brook family was back in Suffolk, this time stationed at RAF Mildenhall from 1998 to 2001. Fast forward another 12 years to July 2013 and he once again found himself at RAF Mildenhall, this time as a Reservist with the 944th LRS.
“I have had the chance to return to RAF Mildenhall while passing through on various deployments, but that was my first time back working in an official capacity,” he said. “The base has changed dramatically since 9/11.”
Even though the base may have changed, some of the faces remained the same.
“It was good seeing old friends and people I used work with, some of which had been promoted,” he said. “It was great to see them doing so well.”
Despite earning his U.S. citizenship more than 30 years ago, Brook’s English accent is still intact, as is his knowledge of all things England.
“I enjoy educating Americans about English customs,” Brook said. “From driving, to fish and chips, to how to drink ‘real’ beer, I enjoy it all. The key is staying open-minded about other cultures.”