Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla. –
Everyone remembers the job they dreamed of when they were children. But how many of us actually get that wish? Lt. Clint Brinker is living his childhood dream of building theme parks and roller coasters.
“It all started at six years old, growing up poor, only have one big family vacation to Disney World, back when it was only Magic Kingdom and EPCOT,” said Brinker. “I knew I wanted to build things, and seeing everything at EPCOT about life, the land, the sea, and imagination inspired me to build theme parks and attractions, which at the time, I didn’t fully understand. But I knew when I grew up I wanted to build ‘that’.”
Brinker is the Vice President of Design and Engineering for SeaWorld’s Orlando Parks. He is also a Navy Reserve Engineering Duty Officer, stationed just down the street from SeaWorld at Navy Reserve Center Orlando.
“I had dreamed of creating theme park attractions since childhood, so I enlisted into active duty as a Navy Seabee in 2000, to serve my country while gaining the education and experience I would need to be successful in the themed entertainment industry,” said Brinker.
Most people aren’t lucky enough to find one job that they really like, let alone two careers that they love. Brinker’s Navy and civilian careers have provided the perfect platform for him to thrive in both.
“Both careers work quite well together,” said Brinker. “The flexibility that the Navy Reserve offers has allowed me to excel both as a civilian and a Sailor. My employers have always been very supportive of my service and generous with allowing me the time away to fulfill my Navy commitments. Both careers are very similar from an engineering perspective, though the applications are distinctly different. Leading projects allows me to leverage every aspect of my education and experience, which is where I’ve found my niche.”
One of Brinker’s most recent projects is Sesame Place San Diego, which opened in March 2022.
“It was a unique opportunity to lead every aspect of designing, building, and opening a theme park based on an American treasure that has been going strong for over 50 years,” said Brinker. “I’m now leading the new Pipeline roller coaster project opening in 2023 at SeaWorld Orlando.”
While on active duty as a Seabee, Brinker used tuition assistance to obtain a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, a bachelor’s degree in science, and a master’s degree in engineering. He was trying to do everything he could so that one day he would be ready for the themed entertainment industry.
“I started my time in the Navy at a couple of commands doing construction,” said Brinker. “I got the full spectrum of what the Seabees do, and from there, I wanted to grow and learn new things to develop myself more completely for when I got out of the Navy to work in theme parks.”
In 2012, Brinker felt like he had reached a high point in terms of active duty service. He started putting out applications and got a job offer to manage projects for the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland. He felt like that was the perfect time to switch over to the Reserve side of naval service, and pursue his dream job. In 2015, he also achieved his goal of becoming a Commissioned Officer in the Engineering Duty community.
So, what’s next for Brinker? In the Navy, he hopes to become a Commanding Officer and aims to inspire Sailors to reach their goals.
“If you are successful, then everyone is successful with you; no CO is successful alone,” he said.
On the civilian side, he never knows what the future holds, but we can be certain that he isn’t done living his dreams.
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