By Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez, 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 26, 2018
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Joining the U.S. Air Force in February of 1999, (now) Master Sgt. Brady Brammer had no idea he would spend nearly 20 years of his life traveling the world and earning opportunities he would never see outside of the military.
Brammer, unaccompanied housing superintendent with the 319th Civil engineer Squadron, has been stationed at six bases, deployed four times, spent five years completing missions as a Pheonix Raven and traveled more than 50 percent of the world.
Like a majority of the enlisted structure, Brammer joined after high school. He entered as a security forces Airman with hopes to eventually cross-train into the Office of Special Investigations.
Within the first few years of his career, Brammer had already been stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England, deployed to Saudi Arabia, and permanently changed stations to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.
“I was [at Andrews] for about three weeks, then 9/11 happened,” Brammer explained. “It was chaos. I worked about 24 hours straight.”
Despite the initial spike of action he experienced as a first-term Airman, Brammer mentioned he was still adamant on leaving active duty through the Palace Chase program. That plan didn’t fall through though, as he was soon selected to join the Air Force’s Phoenix Raven program.
The Phoenix Ravens, an elite, specialized group, consist of specially-trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing security for aircraft that transit high-terrorist and criminal threat areas. After a year of being a Raven, Brammer was assigned to the presidential aircraft mission, and said he often flew with the first lady at the time, Laura Bush.
“She used to make cookies for us,” Brammer reminisced.
Not only did Brammer have to focus on his work life, but his personal life as well. With the new addition of a wife and child, Brammer detailed how his busy schedule affected his relationship.
“I was gone about 10 to 15 days a month,” he said, continuing on about his experience as a Phoenix Raven. “One day I was in Andrews, and the next I’m in Poland, Afghanistan, Russia, MacDill or Jordan. It was like living out of a suitcase for five years straight.”
Brammer praised his wife, Terry, for managing the responsibility of being a part-time single parent, noting their time apart helped their relationship grow stronger.
Brammer and his family soon were relocated to Naples, Italy, where he served as part of the Allied Joint Force Command. It was also in Italy that he passed his 10-year mark of enlistment, which to him, meant it was worth staying in for the next 10 and retiring when able.
“You gotta wait out the storm,” Brammer said, explaining why it’s worth staying in past just one enlistment. “If you get out at the end of your contract, you waste all the time and effort you spent on earning opportunities. I don’t think you reach the full potential the Air Force has to offer.”
Pointing out the irony of his career, compared to conversations he used to have with the friends he made at his first duty station, Brammer explained he never imagined he would be striving to serve at least 20 years.
“All of the guys I kept in contact with from my first base wanted to stay in for 20 years,” Brammer said. “I was the one who wanted to get out, but it ended up being everyone else, for their own reasons. All of them wished they stayed in.”
Now stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, Brammer nears his 20-year mark. Aware of the reputation the base has, he mentioned how oftentimes there are certain things that can be blessings in disguise.
“Your first base is not your whole career,” he explained. “Sometimes what you get is not what you want.”
Brammer went on to say the comparatively slow operations pace of Grand Forks AFB is what provides Airmen the opportunity to go to school, and truly excel at their jobs.
“Don’t sit back,” he urged. “Take control of your career. Find a mentor who you can trust, and be proactive when it comes to what you want to do.”
In regards to future and first-term Airmen, Brammer recommends keeping an eye on all options, and acting upon those that may not always seem the best. He admitted with everything he was able to experience, the one thing he was most thankful for was the chance to grow.
“I’ve never thought about it before…” he said, before recalling his past 19 years in the service. “I would say I’m most grateful for the opportunity to mature. The military gave me stability, and allowed me to excel in my leadership abilities.”