by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
Service is one of the defining merits often associated with being a member of the military. The phrase “Thank you for your service” is often a common saying military members hear from people voicing their appreciation for their service in the armed forces.
For Deborah Brockway, Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) director at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi, serving those who serve – and taking care of the people who serve them (namely her fellow MWR workers) – has been a part of her management philosophy ever since she took on supervisory and director roles at Navy MWR facilities.
Brockway landed her first job with MWR in 1998, working as the snack bar supervisor at the bowling alley onboard Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wa.
During her 14 years there, Brockway eventually worked her way up into other MWR management positions, working in the Chief Petty Officers Club and then becoming the Business Activities Manager, overseeing MWR facilities such as the marina, the veterinary clinic, the flying club, bowling alley, the golf course and the movie theater.
Much of the experience she gained for those various roles was on the job.
“You kind of had to jump in with both feet, and you had to learn what was going on with them because you needed to understand the terminology for those positions,” said Brockway.
Brockway said communication with the subject-matter experts in those programs was key in understanding their operations, their terminology and how to help them run smoothly.
“You were never going to have the respect of the staff if you couldn’t speak the same language they do,” said Brockway. “While MWR is a big family, every facility has its own language. Talking to people at the flying club and talking to people in the vet clinic, you’re talking about two completely different things, so you really had to embrace it all and humble yourself to learn what you could from the subject-matter experts in those programs.”
Brockway credits several mentors who nurtured her along the way in her MWR career. One was Kathy Schallot, who had worked her way up from being a bartender with MWR at Whidbey Island to the Fleet and Family Readiness director for the Pacific Northwest region.
“She definitely instilled in me the work ethic and concept of the reason why we’re here,” said Brockway. “We’re here to serve the service members. What we do isn’t for us, it’s for them.”
Her last MWR director at Whidbey Island, Tom Jones, gave his employees his work philosophy – a list of five principles – that Brockway adopted and brought with her into her role as the MWR Gulfport director when she first started there in 2012.
“The number one thing was ‘Take Care of the People’ – that’s the customer – and then the second thing was ‘Take Care of the People Who Take Care of the People’ – that was taking care of our staff, because without our staff we can’t operate,” said Brockway.
“The third thing on his list was ‘Do the Basics Well.’ The fourth one is ‘Financial Accountability,’ and the fifth one is “Continuous Improvement.’”
Those five principles are what she seeks to pass on to the other MWR supervisors and workers at NCBC to inspire them to provide the best customer service they can, especially given the challenges that COVID-19 has placed on trying to provide service to military members, their families and other MWR patrons.
“Every day we come to work and we try to do the right thing,” said Brockway, noting that this wasn’t always easy, but that it was something she strives for and wants to continue to impart to her workers. That’s what we do every day – we come to work, try to do the right thing and move forward, and do the best we can.”