Former Smith-Cotton High School Band teacher Brian Kloppenburg, now serving with the U.S. Navy, will soon be sent to Japan to serve in the Navy Band 7th Fleet. Music Petty Officer 3rd Class Kloppenburg said, by phone from Norfolk, Virginia, that serving as a Navy musician is the best job in the world.
Kloppenburg, 30, was S-C Band band teacher from 2008 to 2012, before enlisting in the Navy. He is now a keyboardist and auxiliary percussionist in the U.S. Navy Music Program.
"In 2012 I joined the Navy to play the piano," he said.
Kloppenburg received the Bluejacket of the Year for U.S. Fleet Forces Band for 2014 and 2015 and in January he was honored with the Navy Achievement Medal.
"They give them out for an accumulation of work, throughout your tour," he said of the medal. "My tour in Norfolk, Virginia is almost over and we are actually about to go to Yokosuka, Japan for our next tour. They add up all the work that I did and look at everything and if it merits it, they can issue a Navy Achievement Medal."
To receive the Bluejacket of the Year Award Kloppenburg was chosen out of 20 possible sailors.
"Bluejackets are E3s or E4s and lower, so first class petty officers and lower are considered Bluejackets," he said. "You get thrown into the 'pool' with the rest of your rank structure. They compare what everybody's done for the year and they pick a person who essentially has done the most work or the best work."
He said his decision to join the Navy was due to a combination of factors. Kloppenburg added that his wife is a homemaker and it was difficult living on one income.
"We were looking for other options," he said. "The military is a nice way for me to serve the country, and do what I love to do, and make a living that supports my family. It really was like the perfect fit. It's one of those offers that you couldn't pass up."
Kloppenburg has found his niche as a musician, but he also comes from a long line of family who have served in the military.
"It's the best job in the Navy," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It is unbelievably cool. I have a history of military in my family. All my grandparents served, my uncles served, my dad served. My brother is serving in the Navy right now.
"So it's just really cool to be able to serve, and do what I love to do," he added. "One of our big jobs, basically, is community outreach. Our number one job is support of military ceremonies, but there aren't ceremonies all the time and so the other component is community relations. That's why we're part of the Public Affairs Department.
"Our job is to go out and remind people that there are sailors on six right now fighting the good fight so that you can sleep at night," Kloppenburg noted. "They are away from their families for months at a time and that could be underwater, that could be up in the air ... or that could be in the swamps. It's great to be one of the faces of the Navy and make people smile at the same time, I'm super lucky."
Kloppenburg recently reenlisted with the Navy and he and his family will be stationed in Japan for the next three years.
"We are really excited," he said of going to Japan. "Again, it's an opportunity to that nobody really gets. There's not a lot of people in the world, much less in the country, who get the opportunity to take their whole family with them to Japan for three years. "
Kloppenburg said he plans to make the Navy a career.
"I would really like too," he added.