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Colorblind private toughs through limitation to become RTO

3rd Bde., 2nd inf. Div. Public Affairs

Published: 02:05PM June 12th, 2014

For the last 14 years, Pfc. John Brooks has loved computers. He works on them. He builds them. He repairs them. He just loves them. In fact, he even tried to join the Army as a cyber network defender, a new military occupation specialty that focuses on protecting computer networks.

However, life had other plans for Brooks. Due to colorblindness, his options for a job were a little limited. He has still made the best of it and now serves as an indirect fire infantryman and radio telephone operator, otherwise known as an RTO, with 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Brooks recently returned from a four-day command post training exercise June 2 to 5 where he was responsible for manning a radio and computer and relaying messages between subordinate units and the headquarters element.

“Troops in contact, downed birds, pretty much anything that’s essential to the battle,” is what Brooks said he focused on.

It’s a busy job by any standard.

“A lot of the time, I’ll get 12 to 15 reports at once,” Brooks said. “There’s a lot of multitasking.”

Brooks has had a rather unusual career path for a young infantryman. While most others in his job go straight from basic training to a line company that focuses almost exclusively on combat, Brooks went to a headquarters company that is responsible for planning, resourcing and directing subordinate units.

“I honestly had no idea what it meant when I got here,” Brooks said. “I just fell into it.”

This hasn’t been a problem for Brooks, though.

“I turned out to be really good at it,” he said.

On a normal day in the field, Brooks wakes up, checks on the generators and then moves into the tactical operations center where his radio and computer are.

“I do a quick radio check with four or five channels to make sure those are up,” Brooks said.

Throughout the day, he stays in constant contact with subordinate units and keeps the Soldiers in the headquarters up-to-date on any developments in the simulated battles.

Brooks has been doing this job since he left basic training, and it’s taken a lot of time and effort from others to help make him the Soldier he is now.

“I took him under my wing,” said Spc. Kurtis Iaia, Brooks’ team leader. “He’s kind of become this golden boy.”

Iaia has known Brooks since he first arrived at the unit as a brand new private, and has seen him develop a lot as a Soldier.

“I can depend on Brooks,” he said. “If I ask him to do something, I know it’s going to get done. He’s very meticulous, so if you give him a lot of small tasks to monitor, well, he’s money.”

Beside his recent four-day CPX, Brooks also served as an RTO during rotations at Yakima Training Center, and the National Training Center, Fort Irwin., Calif.

Even with his busy training schedule, Brooks still makes time for his two main interests: his wife and computers.

Brooks has been married for almost two years to his wife Stephanie, who he met while attending a trade school in Idaho. By chance, his wife was also from Washington state and had even gone to high school with his brother.

Now, she focuses on writing books and hopes to become published.

When she is not busy writing and he’s not busy training, they travel together and spend a lot of time with their two dogs, a Welsh corgi and a collie-Labrador mix.

Brooks is also set to start college in the next few months with an emphasis in computer science. He said he might try to use that degree to become an Army officer.

With more training on the horizon, Brooks is prepared to stay busy, but he knows this training is teaching him new skills that he can use whether he stays in the Army or pursues a civilian career in computers.