February 21, 2024

Where Are They Now – Brett Elan

Born and raised on Lānaʻi, 2006 Lānaʻi High & Elementary School (LHES) graduate Brett Elan always had dreams of moving away. With support from his parents, who moved to Lānaʻi in the 1980s, that dream became reality. His dad always believed Brett could go to college to become a doctor or a lawyer, but said “whatever decision you make, just try to make a good life for yourself.” Reflecting on it, Brett feels he’s built a “good life” for himself after leaving the island, with a career in the public sector, a wife and three children, and hopes of one day moving back home to the Aloha State.

Joining the Air Force

Growing up and attending LHES, Brett knew he wanted to pursue a career in science or engineering. He enjoyed nature shows and taking apart his toys in a quest to understand all the things he found interesting. Brett’s passion for fixing things led him to enlist in the United States Air Force one year after graduating from LHES and working at The Manele Bay Hotel.

Brett traded familiarity on Lānaʻi for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. “It was a culture shock, going from two lane roads on Lānaʻi to four lanes and stop lights,” he said. “Bonding with coworkers really helped acclimate me to mainland life, and there’s a lot of Filipino restaurants on the mainland.” After completing basic training, he attended technical school at Shephard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) — a field which would stay with him throughout the Air Force, and even after. While in the Air Force, Brett did tours in Afghanistan and Southwest Asia, even going on a humanitarian mission to Moldova, where he led the HVAC team in renovating two schools. He also spent time serving in the Air National Guard and, when not on active duty, worked as a contractor for the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

HVAC Career and Dreams for the Future

After 14 years with the Air Force, Brett separated and joined the Department of Defense as an HVAC technician in 2018 before transferring to the Department of Labor in 2021, where he worked mainly on government facilities and data centers. It’s the work at data centers and a childhood fascination of robotics which sparked Brett’s interest in cybersecurity. With experience on the maintenance side of data centers, he plans to transition to a new role, hoping to start a career in cybersecurity in the next few years.

Family Life

After moving from Hawaiʻi to Texas and later to Maryland, Brett now resides in Virginia with his wife and three children. On weekends, he enjoys fishing with his family, only now it’s on a kayak, instead of on the shores of Lānaʻi. At home, he has a daily ritual of watching Jeopardy or Family Feud with his wife and enjoys being a homebody and spending quality time with family. Brett still dreams of seeing the world, hoping to travel with his family to popular destinations including Japan, Okinawa, Switzerland, Ireland and Denmark. He enjoys each country’s scenery, and their respectful cultures make him happy. He’s already visited several countries including the United Arab Emirates and Moldova.

Looking back, a much more seasoned Brett is proud that his hard work has paid off. “I’ve spent my life keeping my head down, grinding into my job and becoming very good at it.” Now, he is at an age where he can focus more on his personal life and his passions, which includes taking care of his family. Brett enjoys how stable a government career can be, providing the ability to support his family and allowing his children to grow up being cared for by his wife, rather than a babysitter.

Advice for Lānaʻi’s Youth

When asked what advice Brett has for LHES students, he says, “take chances; don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When you’re young, there’s a lot of room to make mistakes, but learn from the mistakes and push forward.” Brett followed his own advice, having taken a big chance when he moved to the mainland after growing up being surrounded by family. He made mistakes along the way, but ultimately learned from them and grew stronger.

At a previous job, Brett’s supervisor once said, “if you’re not breaking anything, you’re not learning.” He now gives that advice to everyone he supervises.


“Where are they now?” features alumni from Lānaʻi High & Elementary School, shedding light on their journeys post-graduation.

Stay Connected with the Community

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Where Are They Now – ‘Ānela Fernandez

Where Are They Now – Brett Elan

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