Just days before the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden announced the Biden Administration would relaunch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative that she and Michelle Obama spearheaded in 2011. Rory Brosius, a Marine veteran’s spouse, was named as the program’s executive director to lead it alongside the first lady.
Brosius is a familiar face in the military space as she served in the role of deputy director for Joining Forces after its inception. Her educational and professional background paired with her firsthand knowledge of military family issues made Brosius a natural pick for the role.
Read: Joining Forces is back.
When President Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden left the White House, Brosius continued to work with the Bidens as a military family advisor for the Biden Foundation. She says her passion for the military community started in her youth.
Inspiration of military service
“Some of my earliest memories are when my older sister, who’s 17 years older than I am, went to the Naval Academy,” Brosius said. “So, some of my very first memories of military service were of this incredibly strong, amazing woman in my life serving.”
Throughout her childhood, she spent a lot of time with her sister — a naval officer. Brosius thought this prepared her for later marrying a Marine. But Brosius laughingly said nothing could have prepared her for becoming a military spouse in 2007.
The first deployment
“We PCS’d three months after we got married and when we got to Camp Pendleton I felt like, OK, I’m ready for this,” she said.
Shortly after settling at their new duty station, her husband received orders to deploy to Fallujah, Iraq.
“Nothing can prepare you for that kind of fear and anxiety. But I will say that as someone who prides themselves on being a problem solver or someone who can grit it out and get it done, that experience taught me how important it is to ask for help,” Brosius said. “It was really a moment for me to embrace that community.”
She began working for Marine Corps Family Team Building and said it was her first real job as a military spouse.
“Seeing those Marines, sailors, and their families come through our doors and really need our support shaped who I am. Those moments were what made me say, ‘I want to be a social worker,’” Brosius said.
After attending the University of Southern California and earning her Master of Social Work degree, Brosius anticipated taking the path toward clinical work. A White House internship changed her plans.
White House internship that changed everything
“Really living it every day, as both a spouse and a service provider, it shapes the way you think about it. Those stories that the service members and their families tell you become the reason you get out of bed in the morning,” she said.
After President Biden was elected in 2020, reviving Joining Forces was a frequent topic discussed throughout the military community and the media. When it was officially announced in January of 2021, Brosius said she was honored to be asked to lead it.
“Who gets to do their dream job twice in their life? It just doesn’t happen,” she said. “I feel a real sense that I have to do my best for our community.”
Brosius says that she doesn’t ever want to let any military spouses down, especially when they see a fellow spouse at the table.
“I want them to know I am here for our community.”
Joining Forces today
In April of 2021, Dr. Biden announced Joining Forces focus on military family employment, quality child care, military child education, and the health and well-being of the military family.
Brosius’ background in social work has influenced her approach to developing plans for the program, she said, referencing systems thinking and the importance of examining an entire system in order to effect change — a common approach for social workers. In her mind, national security is its own system and Joining Forces is an intricate piece of the success of that system, she added.
Just like other military spouses
Despite her important and highly-visible role within the White House, Brosius said she’s not that different from other military spouses. For one, she got engaged to her Marine (and now husband of 14 years) only 15 days after meeting him, with nuptials happening just a few months later. And on a sidenote, she’s a huge fan of Diet Dr. Pepper and used to take trapeze lessons, though she jokingly added that she’s probably not that flexible anymore.
The future of Joining Forces
There’s a lot about her new role that’s fun and brings on excitement for the future, but she said the best part is being able to take the stories she hears from military families and turn them into action.
“When we talk about our Joining Forces’ work and the reason it’s so important … it’s a part of our national security. If we want our service members and our elite warfighters to be able to be retained, the system around them must be healthy … and that includes their families,” she explained. “So, for us, it’s about making sure we are doing everything we can … so that family members, caregivers, and survivors have what they need to thrive.”
Visit www.whitehouse.gov/joiningforces for updates and resources from Joining Forces.
You can find this story and more in our July issue of Military Families Magazine. Download it here.