Soldier to Civilian

Micky Brooks uses his master’s in criminal justice to transition to a new career

After more than 20 years working as a military police officer in the Army, Micky Brooks decided it was time for a change. In 2015, Brooks began transitioning out of the Army at the same time he started pursuing a degree in criminal justice with Excelsior. It was a difficult situation. His three children were also transitioning into new schools, and so his household was already stressful. It was worth it, because he earned a Master of Criminal Justice with a concentration in Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2019. Brooks’ post-military plans don’t stop there; he wants to be a college professor.

In his current position as a law enforcement program manager with the Army, Brooks oversees funding, does assessments, and organizes Army civilian training to make sure workers earn their necessary certifications. As a physical security specialist, Brooks is responsible for assessing Army installations to make sure they are properly secured and are following all Army and Department of Defense guidelines. He is used to the high level of responsibility that comes with his roles; for 22 years, he was a military police officer with the Army.

Brooks had wanted to be a police officer since he was a young child, watching the television shows CHiPS and Magnum, P.I., but he never really knew how he was going to get there. If you had told a teenage Brooks he was going to join the Army military police, he would never have believed you. He didn’t want anything to do with the military, but after attending Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, New York, he realized he didn’t have any way to pay for a bachelor’s degree. “I looked at the Army as a way of getting not only training in the criminal justice field but also as a means to pay for my bachelor’s degree,” he says, adding he thought he would stay in the Army for five years but that quickly turned into 20. “It was probably the best decision I made in my life.”

Brooks earned a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security from Austin Peay University while in the Army, but he had no intention of stopping his education after earning that degree. He heard about Excelsior and decided the online master’s in criminal justice program fit with his goals of becoming a college professor.

It helped to have supportive employers and to have his oldest daughter begin her college career at the same time he was re-starting his. He says it was fun to compete with her about who got the better grades, but Brooks predominantly looked at it as a challenge. “I wanted to be a good role model for not only my oldest in college, but also my two younger kids—one starting high school and one starting middle school—to say, hey, look, Dad can do this. Stay focused, and you can get it done,” he says.

Brooks jokes he’s too old now to “chase around” young kids as a military police officer, so he wants to share his knowledge and experience as a professor. He says, “I can very easily stand up at a classroom and share my experiences, my knowledge, and pass that down to the young law enforcement personnel coming up now and give them a head start on lessons that I’ve learned.” Brooks is looking into temporary, part-time teaching positions, perhaps even getting his feet wet by applying to online faculty positions. He says his learning is definitely not over, and though he doesn’t have immediate plans for pursuing a PhD, the idea is prominent, especially since being a college professor is the finish line.

Brooks has had becoming a professor at the forefront of his mind for some time now and knows it’s important to pursue this goal. He often tells his kids to do what they want because it’s their passion, not because someone told them to. That advice goes for veterans, too, he says. If you have passion in something, it won’t feel like work, he says. “The ultimate goal is what you’re chasing. And that’s your dream. So, chase your dream.”