Irma Jean Brooks was born and raised in Madison, Tennessee, but also spent several years in Richland, Washington, during World War II while her father worked at a facility involved with making the atomic bomb. The family returned to Tennessee after the war, and Brooks graduated from Isaac Litton High School in Nashville in 1947. She then attended the University of Tennessee, graduating in 1951 with a major in physical education. Brooks taught for one year before joining the navy.
Brooks received a direct commission in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in January of the following year and was sent to the Women Officers School in Newport, Rhode Island. After four months of training, she was sent to San Francisco, California, where she worked in the office of Commander, Western Sea Frontier, for one year and then as a custodian of registered publications for two years. Brooks was then transferred to the U.S. Naval Station in Washington, D.C., where she was in charge of the Quarters K barracks facility in Arlington, Virginia, for three years. Brooks was then ordered to Naples, Italy, for two years on the staff of Commander, Fleet Air Mediterranean.
Brooks returned to the United States in the early 1960s and was assigned to the Officer Personnel Division of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. After that three-year tour, she was transferred to the Naval Air Development Center in Johnsville, Pennsylvania, for three years. Brooks then returned to the Women Officers School in Newport, this time as academic director and leadership instructor.
In the late 1960s, Brooks returned to BuPers and was put in charge of officer training. Her final duty station was at the U.S. Navy Recruiting Command, where she was in charge of personnel from 1970 until her retirement in March 1973. Brooks moved to San Diego, California, the following year to work in management consulting, and remained there after leaving the company three years later.