Commander—and Social Worker—Stephen Bromberek at the Helm

CDR Bromberek at CUSSW

The U.S. Navy dropped anchor for the first time at the School of Social Work on November 27, in an event hosted by the Office of Career and Leadership Development. Several students sat to attention as alumna Jennifer Bornemann (MSSW, 2000), who now serves as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, introduced Commander Stephen Bromberek, the director of social work at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where she is doing an internship.

CDR Bromberek instantly put the audience at ease by making it clear that he had never intended to go into the Navy when he first got his master's in social work. On the contrary, serendipity had played a surprising role in his decision, he said.

At that time, he had been agonizing over whether to pursue a career in a psychiatric hospital or at General Motors—having interned at both venues while getting his MSW from Indiana State University.

But then the psychiatric hospital sent him to Washington, DC, for a conference on family therapy training at the National Institutes for Health, in Bethesda.

Being a friendly farm boy from Indiana, he ended up engaging in a conversation with a naval officer while taking the Metro to Bethesda (the National Naval Medical Center is across the street from the NIH). And, as luck would have it, the person he approached was one of the first social workers in the history of the Navy.

So inspired was Bromberek by what he heard that he decided to enlist, even though it meant getting rid of his long hair and beard. That was just under twenty years ago, and this Hoosier has now lived all over the world and practiced social work in environments ranging from  an airship carrier to the battlefront. He has also risen to the top of his field, becoming a specialty leader responsible for recruiting and integrating social workers into the Navy's mental health clinics.

In addition to relaying his personal story, CDR Bromberek alerted potential job seekers to a piece of good news—particularly those who seek jobs in clinical social work. Whereas the Navy had thought of eliminating its social work division around five years ago, it has since decided to increase the numbers of LCSWs on active duty by around 40 percent. The reason for this change is the growing number of wounded warriors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, anxiety, flashbacks, depression, and other mental health issues.

Job Opportunities in US NAVY

As CDR Bromberek explained it, the Navy requires new recruits to make an initial commitment of five years—but two of those years will be spent on an internship at a major hospital (the program in which LCDR Jennifer Bornemann is now participating in) getting the supervised clinical social work experience required for the clinical license. Once the candidate obtains the license, three years will be spent serving in the field.

So, will any CUSSW students be veering in the Navy's direction? While admitting that the Navy might not be for everyone, CDR Bromberek pointed out that there are plenty of related opportunities for serving one's country that do not require joining the armed services—a prime example being the U.S. Public Health Service, in which Jennifer has commissioned. This uniformed service plays the vital role of protecting the nation's public health, which includes assisting in public health responses to man-made and natural disasters.

CUSSW students who are interested in exploring such opportunities should keep an eye on the social worker listings at usajobs.gov.

—ML Awanohara

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Social work students, any questions or comments for CDR Bromberek or LCDR Bornemann? Please leave them in the comments section of this post.

Img: 1) CDR Stephen Bromberek addressing CUSSW students as alumna Jennifer Bornemann looks on (far left), by Chloe Svolakos; 2) created from a photo on the U.S. Navy site.