Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E

Brooks, Vincent K.(1958–) - Army officer, spokesperson, Joins the Military, Serves During Second Iraqi War, Chronology

united chief command infantry

Brigadier General Vincent K. Brooks’ deft handling of the media and his outstanding performance as the United States Army’s most senior spokesman during the second Iraqi War earned him international recognition and respect. Millions of people around the world observed his televised press conferences on a daily basis and listened avidly to the information he shared about the progress of the war. To many of those watching, his presence represented the increased participation of minorities, particularly African Americans, in the United States armed services and the strides that they have made toward leadership roles.

Truly a soldier’s soldier, Brooks was born into a military family that was posted in Anchorage, Alaska on October 24, 1958. His father, Leo Brooks Sr. was an army officer who would himself become a brigadier general and his mother, Naomi, was a schoolteacher. On both the maternal and paternal side of his family, Brooks has deep roots in the black experience in the United States, especially in the state of Virginia. His mother is a descendant of the Quander family, a free black family which has resided in the Virginia and Maryland area for over three hundred years. Nellie Quander was one of the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 1908. His father can trace his antecedents back to a slave traded in the Hay-market area in Alexandria, Virginia. Brooks is the second of three children, having an older brother, Leo Brooks Jr., and a younger sister, Marquita.

Like many military families, the Brooks led a nomadic life, relocating twenty-eight times while the father was on active duty. When Brooks and his brother were enrolled at an Alexandria, Virginia co-educational high school, as a junior and senior respectively, their father received orders that put him in charge of the Sacramento Army Depot. The family moved to California and the two brothers became students and later graduates of the all male Jesuit High School, where there were only four other black students enrolled. At six feet and five inches tall, Brooks ran track and played basketball well enough to be offered an athletic scholarship to the North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He decided instead to follow his older brother to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York.

Joins the Military

At West Point, Brooks played basketball and excelled as a student. In May 1980, the New York Times noted that Brooks was the first African American in the 178-year history of the prestigious university to hold the post of captain of cadets. As a senior, he led more that four thousand cadets and was first in his class. Brooks graduated from West Point with a B.S., but without a major.

Commissioned as a second lieutenant on May 28, 1980, Brooks was first assigned as weapons platoon leader, in B Company, First Battalion (Airborne), 504th Infantry in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Between October 1980 and December 1983, he held several successive platoon leader positions and advanced to the rank of first lieutenant on November 28, 1981. In January 1984, he was promoted to captain and attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia prior to being stationed in Germany as adjutant and then commander of B Company in the Sixteenth Infantry, followed by a position as commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Fourth Battalion (Mechanized), Sixteenth Infantry Division (Forward), United States Army Europe and Seventh Army in Germany.

After a stint at the United States Total Army Personnel Command in Alexandria, Virginia, Brooks attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for two years. In 1992, he earned an MA. in Military Art and Science (MMAS). Having acquired the rank of major at this point in his career, Brooks went on to fill various positions with the First Calvary, where he came to the attention of General Wesley Clark, a Rhodes Scholar who would later command the United States Army peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and campaign for the office of Commander and Chief. He found Brooks to be a “no-nonsense leader, who had studied his profession carefully, worked hard, and delivered.”

Brooks left the First Calvary Division in Fort Hood, Texas and rotated to Washington D.C. as a lieutenant colonel. He went to the Pentagon to serve in the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans in 1995 and ably performed as an infantry systems integrator. While posted at the District of Columbia, Brooks also served as an aide-de-camp to the vice chief of staff of the United States Army and held that job until April 1996, when he was sent to Korea to serve as commander of the Second Battalion of the Ninth Infantry, Second Infantry Division in the Eighth Army.

Brooks returned to the halls of academe from July 1998 to June 1999, when he attended the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a senior service college fellow, he studied national security issues. At the end of his academic program, Brooks was appointed a full colonel and moved on to Fort McPherson, Georgia, where he was the chief of the Plans and Program Division, G-3, Third United States Army/Army Central Command.

Serves During Second Iraqi War

In July 2000, Brooks was put in charge of the First Brigade, Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He led his command to Kosovo, where they participated in a peacekeeping mission as a part of Operation Joint Guardian. Brooks remained with the Third Infantry until 2002, when he was appointed deputy director of Military Affairs, J-5, the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter he shipped out to the post that brought him national and international media exposure: deputy J-3, chief operations spokesman, United States Central Command (“Centcom”) at Camp As Sayliyah, in Doha, Qatar.

The Central Command is one of nine combat commands that answer directly to the president of the United States and the secretary of defense and is comprised of twenty- five African countries, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Brooks remained with the Central Command from 2002 to 2004, working with the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom campaigns of the Iraqi War. As the chief operations spokesman, it was Brooks’s responsibility to conduct daily military briefings on the progress of the coalition troops toward victory over Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army.

The Second Persian Gulf War produced a new type of journalist, the embedded reporters, who traveled with military units on combat missions. Specially chosen for the task by General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief of United States Central Command, Brooks had to verify and respond to information about war activity that was being reported by nearly six hundred print, online, and televised journalists. Verne Gay of the Chicago Tribune dubbed Brooks, “the face of the U.S. military,” because it was his face and demeanor that most frequently appeared on camera to report news about the war. Brooks took notes at Centcom staff meetings and discussed with General Franks what information would be released to the press. Always calm, polite, and “on message,” Brooks reported the facts and tried to provide effective sound bites. He efficiently discharged his objective of disseminating the army’s war news coverage to the public and within the service, through foreign and domestic channels. In his bestselling autobiography American Soldier , General Franks noted that Brooks is a “brilliant young officer” and praised him for playing a “superb” role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.


1958 Born in Anchorage, Alaska on October 24

1976? Graduates from Jesuit High School, Sacramento, California

1980 Graduates first in his class at West Point; first African American captain of cadets commissioned as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army

1981 Promoted to first lieutenant

1984 Promoted to captain

1991 Appointed major

1995 Serves as deputy chief of staff for operations and plans at the Pentagon; promoted to lieutenant colonel

1999 Attends John F. Kennedy School of Government as senior service college fellow; promoted to colonel

2000 Leads troops to Kosovo for peacekeeping mission

2002 Appointed chief operations spokesman, United States Central Command; youngest officer to be nominated for brigadier general

2004 Promoted to brigadier general; appointed chief of Army Public Affairs

Although Brooks received overall high marks for his performance before the cameras and his handling of the news media, he was not without his detractors. Several reporters openly complained about the absence of General Franks at the briefings and others took issue with the timing of the information released at Brooks’s press conferences. They pointed out that in many instances Brooks’s news was not really new, because the information had already been released by the Pentagon.

In 2002, Brooks became the youngest officer to be sent to the United States Senate to be nominated for promotion to general and on May 1, 2004 his appointment to brigadier general made him the first graduate of West Point’s class of 1980 to attain the rank of general. His promotion to brigadier general, along with the identical rank promotion of his older brother, Leo Jr., also made the Brooks family the first African American family to have three generals in two generations, surpassing General Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

Wins Medals and Honors

When Brooks’s tour of duty with Operation Iraqi Freedom terminated on April 24, 2004, he returned to Washington, D.C., to work at the Pentagon as deputy director for the war on terrorism, J-5, Joint Staff, where he participated in the formulation of national security policies and strategies to control nuclear proliferation. Although he expected to return to his command in Georgia, Brooks was appointed chief of Army Public Affairs in December 2004.

Over the course of an excellent career, Brooks, who speaks German, has been the recipient of numerous medals and badges, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit (with oak cluster), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with seven oak clusters), and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. His military badges include the expert infantry badge, the senior parachutist badge, and a ranger tab. He is married to the former Carol Rene Perry, a physical therapist, and the couple resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

Brooks, Walter H.(1851–1945) - Minister, religious reformer, orator, poet, Chronology [next] [back] Brooks, Juanita Leavitt (1898–?) - Biography

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

about 2 years ago

You should research this bio further. Vincent was the first black "First Captain" at West Point. I do not believe that he was first in his class academically.