Brock Fanning says he learned a great deal during his time in the U.S. Navy, not the least of which was remaining calm in highly stressful situations.
It’s a skill that serves him well in real estate to be sure. Fanning has been with Toll Brothers since leaving the Navy in 2004, beginning his tenure as a project manager in Naples and now serving as senior vice president for Central Florida. He admits the stress of 2008’s economic downturn was a different sort than he encountered while serving as Officer of the deck aboard a $1.8 billion ship.
“What that means,” Fanning told GrowthSpotter, “is that while the Captain’s asleep, you’re essentially running the ship.”
High stress under the best of conditions, Fanning earned his Surface Warfare Pin (“the equivalent of a pilot getting his wings,” he explains) and headed out on a Northern Arabian Gulf Tour, part of Operation Iraqi Freedom aboard the USS Kinkaid.
Though he was prepared for it, life aboard a Spruance-class destroyer was different.
“You’re in a junior officers’ bunkroom, which is probably 10 feet by 10 feet, living with six other guys,” he laughs. “But when you put ‘em all together – you’re young and you’re traveling and you’re serving your country, it’s scary and it’s fun all at the same time.”
Touring the world was an eye-opener for the Pennsylvania native. His father, a home builder, also was a Navy reservist, a fact which influenced Fanning’s decisions to some degree. His brother – and athletic gifts – figured in the mix as well.
“I played soccer and ran track, but then in middle school I found lacrosse and was pretty much hooked from that point on,” Fanning says. “It’s really fast. And one individual can’t dominate the sport. It’s like soccer; you have to have a really good team.”
Fanning did. And he excelled, earning a scholarship to Georgetown University where his brother had gone. Although he’d gotten into the Naval Academy, as well – the military called to him early – Fanning chose the place where he felt comfortable – signing up for service while in D.C.
Travel, of course, was part of the excitement. Fanning visited far-flung places around the world. While in port, he explains, work shifts happened every third day, allowing for lots of exploration. He cites time in Australia among the most exciting.
“We flew to Fraser Island and took a Range Rover through the rainforest. You can’t swim on the outside of the island because of the sharks, so we went to the middle of the island and it’s amazing and unusual – there are lakes in the center of the island, but it really feels as though you are on a sandy beach.”
It was quite an experience for one’s early 20s, he admits, but so, too, was moving from the 1973-commissioned Kinkaid to the USS Mason. Activated in Cape Canaveral in 2000, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was light years ahead of where Fanning spent the last two years.
It wasn’t the only exciting aspect of life around that time, though. While training in Virginia to prepare for life aboard the Mason, he met Kate. While they spent time apart as Fanning moved from Virginia to D.C. to Maine before heading out on the new ship, they managed to see each other nearly every weekend. The couple married not long after he left the Navy and headed to Florida – first to Naples, and then Orlando. It was a great move, Fanning says, “We love it here, we’re never leaving.”
He now enjoys life in Winter Garden, coaching lacrosse and soccer teams for son Brody and daughter Sydney.
“Spending time with my kids is my hobby,” Fanning says. “I want them to play sports because I believe it’s good skills-building for teamwork and camaraderie; I think it’s important for their long-term development.”
His son enjoys many sports right now, Fanning notes, but lacrosse will always be his.
“You never know. One day [Brody] may not want to play. I’d say, ‘That’s fine, but I’m still coaching.’”