USNA Welcomes New Brigade Commander ('21)
POSTED ON: Saturday, September 4, 2021 11:39 AM by MC3 Thomas Bonaparte Jr.
The U.S. Naval Academy welcomed Midshipman 1st Class (senior) Jackie Booker, a member of 3rd Company, as the brigade commander for the fall semester of the 2022 academic year.
The brigade commander holds the highest midshipman leadership position, charged with leading the more than 4,4000 students who make up the Brigade of Midshipmen. By instruction, the duties of a brigade commander include executing the policies set forth by Commandant of Midshipmen Col. James P. McDonough and being responsible for maintaining efficiency and morale throughout the Brigade of Midshipmen.
“The day I found out I was selected was pretty hectic,” said Booker. “That day, Bancroft was evacuated for a security measure. 2nd Lt. Sydney Barber, who was then the brigade commander, stopped by my room and asked to talk. I didn’t think much of it since I was working on her staff at the time. After she pulled out the midshipman captain collar device, it slowly dawned on me what was happening.”
The selection process begins at the company level. Midshipmen are interviewed by their company officer, senior enlisted leader, and company commander. After the initial interviews, names are selected and forwarded to each midshipman’s corresponding battalion officer for a similar interview. Those recommended by their battalion officer are given an opportunity to be a part of the Brigade Striper Board. The process of becoming the brigade commander includes nine interviews.
“Being selected as the brigade commander was something that I never really thought about or considered until the striper board interview,” said Booker. “Initially, I felt a flurry of emotions: excitement, fear, relief, gratitude, and awe. After some time passed, the magnitude of being named brigade commander finally sunk in, and I’ve felt honored and grateful for the opportunity ever since.”
Booker consistently participated in mentorship positions throughout his time at the Naval Academy, a leadership trait he believes the interviewers highly valued.
“I’ve had a unique opportunity to take on many different leadership positions throughout my Naval Academy career,” said Booker. “My second class (junior) year I served as a Plebe Summer squad leader detailer. With this position, I oversaw the development of my group of newly indoctrinated plebes into functioning members of the brigade. After that, I served as a company squad leader where I was responsible for midshipmen of all classes and had to oversee their morale and conduct at the lowest level. Finally, I served as the 1st Regiment sergeant major, tasked with maintaining accountability, communication, and standards for midshipmen in my regiment.”
The brigade commander interacts, leads, and mentors others on a wide scale. Connecting with the other midshipmen is essential to the position.
“I’m a very big people-person,” said Booker. “Being able to form interpersonal connections with others and help them achieve their goals is something I’ve really enjoyed. For this year, my biggest goal is being able to re-establish what it means to be a midshipman at the Naval Academy, both as an individual and as an organization. I’d like to see midshipmen embrace the unique opportunity we have, while also executing the policies of the commandant that align with the Academy’s goal of graduating future Navy and Marine Corps officers.”
Booker has many different mentors who have helped him in his journey -- Ensign Jared Leins, Class of 2021; Lt. Cmdr. Scott McKee, Booker’s academic advisor and mentor; and countless other peers and company mates.
“I was thrilled to learn that Jackie would be interviewing for the position,” said McKee. “Having been his academic advisor since he was a plebe, I have seen him display critical thinking that is elevated along with discipline. Early on, he never mentioned becoming a striper. Instead, he focused on putting himself in a competitive position to earn any opportunity presented. That foresight paid off for him.”
McKee said that fulfilling a commitment is key in any career field, and that combined with confidence, anything is possible. These qualities became apparent the first time McKee saw Booker struggle in class.
“There was a course early in his time here that posed a challenge to Jackie,” said McKee. “He knew his weakness in this area and didn’t run from it. Instead, he practiced and worked at it diligently. Because of his dedication, he ultimately performed above average.”
Booker is from Orangeburg, South Carolina, and credits his southern upbringing for developing his personality and mindset towards life. He learned what support was from his family and friends at home, and they encouraged him to be a support system for others. He credits his mother, Kathy B. Booker, as his biggest influence. She has been the number one role model and mentor throughout his life.
“Although she doesn’t have a military background, she’s done so much to help me develop into the person I am today,” said Booker. “I attribute my success to her.”
Kathy described her son as calm and curious, and held himself to high standards even as a child.
“I am honored to know that he has chosen a path of service to his country and his fellow man and woman,” said Kathy. “I am honored that during these most challenging times, my son was chosen to help guide the Brigade of Midshipmen. Last but not least, I have told Jackie throughout his lifetime that I am truly honored to be his mom. Honored to be the vessel that brought him into the world to fulfill the purpose and mission that is laid out before him.”
Finally, Booker credits British-American author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek as one of the people who inspires his leadership style.
“As a leader, I like to focus on doing what I can to help those in my charge be successful,” said Booker. “The overarching theme is that my job as a leader isn’t to serve myself but to serve others. Humility. Confidence. Being the best version of yourself each and every day. Human decency. These are some of the biggest characteristics, I think, that I have in my leadership style.”
Booker saw this interview as an opportunity to speak to the entire brigade, and has the following message to pass along to his fellow midshipmen:
“Everything, and I mean everything, that happens this year will rest in your hands. Our goals for this year, of becoming the best version of ourselves and working to fulfill the ultimate mission of the Naval Academy, is something that we can only do ourselves. I promise to do all I can to give you, the brigade, the opportunity and resources to do this. I alone can’t make this happen. As much as you may rely on me, I am also going to rely on each of you. The only way forward is together.”
As the undergraduate college of our country's naval service, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women to become professional officers of competence, character, and compassion in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.