December 2002's 'RA of the Month' Honored After Tour of Duty in Iraq

Published 09.10.2004


Dusty Brooks, as an RA againTuesday, Jan. 21, 2003 . Dusty Brooks remembers that day clearly.

Then a third-year Pennsylvania College of Technology student majoring in Legal Studies and a Resident Assistant in The Village at Penn College she had just returned from a morning class and settled in for a nap when she received the call that would change the course of her life.

It was on that day that Brooks, an Army Reservist serving with the 442nd QM CO (DET1) out of Williamsport , received the call informing her she had only slightly more than 48 hours to report for active duty . . . and that her unit would be shipped out to Iraq .

Her story is not unlike that of many Penn College students who found their plans abruptly and dramatically changed; students who suddenly left behind goals, family, friends and the comforts of everyday life for a journey to a foreign land a journey from which there was no guaranteed safe return.

Dusty Brooks in military serviceBrooks said that, prior to Jan. 21, she knew other reserve units were being deployed, but she did not imagine it would happen to her. In a moment's notice, however, it was all too real. She said she put down the phone and, in that instant, the world stood still. Her priorities of just a few minutes before getting some rest and preparing for her next class no longer were important. As soon as she was able to accept the reality of what just happened, she realized she had only a couple of days to put her life in order and prepare for what lay ahead.

Making the moment even tougher was that, in Fall 2002, she became a Resident Assistant at Penn College . Prior to becoming an RA, Brooks commuted from her home in Renovo. She said she applied for the position because she wanted to be more involved with the College and play a more-active role in the campus community. She found the position to be just what she was looking for and one at which she excelled. In December 2002, Brooks received the honor of being named Penn College' s "Resident Assistant of the Month."

By the time her journey was complete, she was gone for one full year. Her journey started with a brief period in Fort Drum , N.Y. , followed by deployment to Kuwait and eventually to Iraq . As a Specialist/E-4, her main responsibilities while in Iraq included laundry, sewing and radio communications. Brooks said that the main thing that kept her going day after day were letters and packages from home, and her fellow soldiers, who became like family.

One of the amazing things about Brooks' story is that, after a deviation in plans that took her a world away, she was able to come full circle and pick up where she left off a year and a half ago. She re-enrolled this fall and once again is serving as a Resident Assistant in The Village. Dusty says that while she was able to pick up the pieces, she has come back from the experience as a different person with a new appreciation for life that changes how she approaches each day.

Brooks, along with former RA Jason Furl, will present a program in Penn's Inn at 7 p.m. Sept. 16. The focus of the program will be on the Iraq experience as told by Penn College student leaders, who left their leadership positions behind to be leaders in the world arena. Furl, a Staff Sergeant/E-6 in the 442nd QM CO (DET1) out of Williamsport , had been a Resident Assistant in Campus View and was just starting his final semester toward a degree in Civil Engineering Technology when called to active duty in January 2003.

Like Brooks, Furl has re-enrolled and is finishing up the work he left behind a year and half ago.