Heritage Month Spotlight: Brad Cook, Raytheon
February 21, 2019
Melded in the Melting Pot
Through early influences and unique experiences, Operations Command Media Coordinator Bradford Cook has been shaped by diversity and service.
Operations Command Media Coordinator
Those who devote their lives to serving often have a continual drive to help those around them, to be an example and to lead others. They are often influenced by leaders around them and by those who courageously bring about progress.
Operations Command Media Coordinator Bradford Cook has had many of these influences that have shaped the leader he is today, but among the many was a co-founder of the Black Panthers.
“I grew up in Berkeley, where it was not unusual for people like Huey Newton to come to your classroom. He spoke to us a few times, and he inspired me. He wanted change and felt that it would only come if you asked for it and were willing to work for it.”
During his childhood in Berkeley, California, Brad lived amidst radical social change. He remembers the People’s Park riots and wearing peace buttons as young as six years old. He grew up among children of Black Panthers, Vietnam veterans, hippies and other diverse groups. For Brad, diversity was simply a part of Berkeley’s landscape.
“We weren’t diverse because we were trying to make a statement. We were diverse because that’s how it was. I knew who I was, and I had friends of all nationalities and didn’t think anything of it.”
Brad grew up in a unique environment where his heritage was studied, celebrated, and part of a larger “melting pot.” But as a young man, he wanted to see who he was outside of his hometown.
“I Knew Who I Was”
Upon graduating from Berkeley High School, Brad attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, a historically black all-male college with alumni like Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop; and Film Director Spike Lee. It was his first time living in an all-black environment.
“At Morehouse, I began to notice that there was diversity within my race. There were differences between those of us raised in Berkeley and those from Southern cities like Atlanta.”
He noticed that his fellow students all had different ways of communicating, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and overall, different experiences. Seeing this made Brad think critically about who he was and his future.
“I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to do. It was just another part of my maturation process.”
For Brad, part of this process meant leaving Morehouse College and going back to California. Eventually back in his hometown, he had another opportunity to find out who he was, and this time, it was through service.
“I wanted a change, so I joined the Army.”
Brad served four years as an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. He liked the work and the environment but left full-time status to finish his college education. He transferred to California State University at Long Beach and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering as well as commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army.
But he didn’t leave the military completely. Throughout college and for the next 28 years, Brad would keep that connection and strengthen his sense of self.
Walking in Both Worlds
Throughout his military career, Brad served with the Active-Duty Forces, the California Army National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserves. Between 1988 and 2017, he was deployed on multiple missions to locations such as Korea, Ukraine, Thailand, Kosovo, Iraq, Kuwait and more. He worked his way up from private to commanding officer, eventually being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
During the deployments, the orders, and the challenges, Brad found himself in circumstances where he knew he could make a difference. He knew that, like Huey Newton, he had the opportunity to bring about change.
“There are people who accept what’s there and make the best of it. In the Army, there were things I had to accept because they were attached to orders and the Area of Operations. But I wanted to show how it should be done and provide an example that would be memorable and, of course, successful. And I got my chance.”
His duties in the military included serving in several leadership roles, like mayor and garrison commander of a Joint Coalition Forward-Operations base; supervisor of a tactical operations center; senior air operations chief; and deputy-chief for the Joint Visitors Bureau in Eastern Europe. He was even a senior instructor for officer’s candidates. He earned several medals and awards for his service in Operations like Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, Noble Eagle and more.
This was all part of his second job for 17 years. Since 2000, Brad has also worked at Raytheon in various roles within Engineering and Operations.
“I was walking in both worlds. For example, when I came back from Kosovo, I knew I would be leaving for Iraq in just five months. In the meantime, I had to complete a different mission.”
Brad describes the work environment at Raytheon after 9/11 as a “reservist culture,” since many like him were working in between deployments. Being among those working with missiles on the back end and in the field meant he could bring a unique perspective to both settings. This perspective was necessary now that he found himself in a different kind of “melting pot.”
“On deployments and at work, English was usually the universal language. But that didn’t mean we always spoke the same language.”
Just like at Morehouse, Brad has found diversity even among those with similar voices. It’s this perspective and his experiences that help him speak the language of progress, no matter what his mission. It’s a language driven by service and by leadership.
And though history has been made around him in Berkeley, at Morehouse and in the military, Brad makes sure that he’s speaking a language that looks forward, rather than back.
“My goal is simply to be the best example I can be and let history take care of itself.”
February is Black History Month, and Raytheon is celebrating diverse minds and experiences like Brad’s.