Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Brooks
When many people think of the war in Iraq they imagine foot soldiers in skirmishes on the barren desert, or of F-16s unleashing precision guided bombs.
However, one Harlem native fought the war from beneath the waves.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Brooks is patrolling the Persian Gulf living in the near claustrophobic conditions of a Navy submarine.
Brooks, 29, entered the submarine service after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1995. His role in Operation Iraqi Freedom is an engineer of the USS Montpelier, an improved Los Angeles class attack submarine.
"I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of all the nuclear propulsion plant and auxiliary equipment," Brooks wrote in an e-mail interview.
"My department has about 60 nuclear and auxiliary operators. I also stand watch as Officer of the Deck, responsible for operation of the ship during my watch. I typically stand six hours of watch followed by 12 hours off."
Brooks said he can't reveal his sub's mission or what part he and his fellow sailors will play in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
Brooks graduated from Harlem High School in 1991 and left a month after graduation to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
He selected the submarine service in his senior year at Annapolis and has since served on three submarines, including the Montpelier.
Although he's proud to serve his country in the Navy, Brooks said that he is looking forward to enjoying some of the amenities many people take for granted.
"(I'm looking forward to) having a long hot shower," he wrote.
"On submarines we use only enough water to get wet. We then turn the water off, soap up, then turn the water back on long enough to get the soap off."
He also said he's looking forward to a steak, cold beer, spending time with his girlfriend and sleeping in his own bed.
The toughest part of life on a submarine, according to Brooks, is the amount of time he has to spend away from his loved ones.
"During a recent port call, I was able to call home and talk to my family and my girlfriend for the first time in two months, and it was great to hear their voices," wrote Brooks.
When he's not cruising beneath the ocean, Brooks lives in Chesapeake, Va. He said he misses his time in Harlem and appreciates the friends and teachers he met going to Harlem High.
"I enjoyed growing up in Harlem," he wrote. "My parents, brother and I moved to Columbia County in 1983 and it was a fantastic place to be a kid. Thanks to my many outstanding teachers (too many to name here, but they know who they are) I got an excellent education. Being in such a tight-knit community, I had many friends that I still keep regular contact with. Finally, the community has always supported me in all my endeavors. I've traveled and lived all over the world, but I still will always consider Harlem to be my hometown."
In turn, the city of Harlem recently showed their support for Brooks and his shipmates.
"The (Harlem) City Council sent a resolution honoring the men of the USS Montpelier, and many people have sent their best wishes," wrote Brooks, whose brother Craig served on the council. "We have received amazing support from many communities from Florida to California and everywhere in between. It's that kind of support that lets us know what we are serving for."
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