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NEWS | Dec. 21, 2022

Profile in Professionalism: MA1 Tracy Branner

By MC2 Peter Ticich

Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Tracy Branner was driving home when he received a phone call from Chief Personnel Specialist (AW) Benny Byers.  Branner was overwhelmed to hear the news that he had been selected for promotion to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class as part of the Navy Reserve’s Meritorious Advancement Program (MAP-R). A program that is designed to advance eligible E-5 and below Sailors to the next higher paygrade after being nominated by their commanding officer.

“I was in complete shock,” said Branner. “It’s an honor to be recognized by my superiors for the work I do. This promotion has allowed me to reach my goal of becoming a Petty Officer 1st Class in the Navy.  It opens the door for me to hopefully become an officer through the limited duty officer (LDO) program.”

Branner is known at Navy Reserve Center (NRC) Knoxville for being a calming presence and voice of reason – ideal qualities for the installation’s head of security.  His former (leading chief petty officer) LCPO, Chief Machinery Repairman Michael Martin, commented, “I don’t think that guy ever goes to general quarters, but he’ll have my attention if he does.” 

Branner’s maturity and natural demeanor are a constant reassurance to his commanding officer, as NRC Knoxville operates hundreds of miles away from the nearest Navy installation.

Before enlisting in the Navy Reserves, Branner attended Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. where he received his bachelor’s degree in visual arts in 2000. After he obtained his degree, he worked as a steel worker in Alcoa, Tenn. for nine and a half years.  However, he began to grow restless with is day to day routine. He felt that his current career was not challenging enough for him to grow as an individual.

“I was working in a factory,” said Branner. “It was difficult working swing shifts and it felt like it was a thousand degrees in there. I wanted something different. I wanted to make a difference in my life and to explore the world with different possibilities.”

In 2011, Branner made the decision to join the Navy Reserves, a decision he had contemplated with little hesitation. His only concern was joining the military at a later age in life. At 35 years-old, he had some insecurities due to the fact that most people joining the Navy were much younger. However, his determination had silenced his doubts and took him to his first Navy experience: boot camp.

“Boot camp was hell,” Branner laughed. “Being older it took me several weeks to heal from the ‘ice cream socials’ but it was a great experience for me at my age. I could see the growth and strength within myself and my fellow recruits. It taught me that I could do anything in my life no matter my age or condition. I proved to myself that I could do what other people said I couldn’t do.”

Branner was motivated by going through boot camp with most of his unit members younger than he was because he did not want to be outdone by his younger counterparts. He said it was not only an incredible experience for him to grow but he got to watch the younger Sailors grow as well. He was inspired by the opportunity to learn new things and challenge himself every day.

“I have learned to completely change my mindset,” said Branner. “I have honed in on my work ethic and skills, and I am still applying those techniques today, 11 years later.”
Branner’s motivation is still in high gear, especially after being meritoriously promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class. With the MAP-R program, individuals selected for meritorious advancement are promoted without having to take and pass the advancement exam.

“The program is beneficial for Sailors because it reflects on their work ethic,” said Branner. “The test adds several factors: hoping you passed, and then making sure you’re within the quota etcetera. Meritorious promotions are based on your professionalism, hard work and stand out actions.”

During his active-duty orders serving as the Master-At-Arms Program manager at NRC Knoxville, Branner’s role as a Reserve Sailor plays an important part in providing force protection for submarine units as well as aiding in security for ships that are in port.

“Signing up for the Navy Reserves has been one of the most important and timely decisions of my life.” said Branner. “It has opened up a different path to success that I have been looking for to help achieve all the goals I set for myself.”

Branner explained that he continuously strives to reach his goals in the Navy and is enjoying the experience. He hopes his success will inspire his younger shipmates to create their own path for growth and success at an earlier stage in their careers.

“I have grown personally by proving to myself that entering and completing boot camp at the age of 35 was achievable,” said Branner. “Professionally, I have been able work my way through the enlisted ranks in hopes of becoming an officer.”

His shipmates aren’t the only ones he hopes to inspire. As a father of four girls, Branner hopes to be a role model for his daughters and show them the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve them. Of course, he is still setting additional goals for himself too.

“My personal goal is to travel the world and see the country on my time with my family,” said Branner. “What’s next for me is to continue my education with a master’s degree and get a job with the Department of Homeland Security or another investigative agency.”