General Charles “CQ” Brown has officially been confirmed as the next Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the branch’s highest military position, following a unanimous confirmation from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The historic vote secured Brown’s position as the 22nd Chief of Staff in Air Force history, and the first black service chief in the history of our nation.
Brown rose through the ranks as an F-16 pilot with more than 2,900 hours in the cockpit and at least 130 flight hours in combat environments. Brown’s talents in the cockpit eventually led him to serving as an F-16 pilot instructor before moving on to a variety of command positions, including his recent role as the commander of Pacific Air Forces.
Throughout his impressive career, General Brown has repeatedly stood out among his peers. First commissioned in 1984, Brown went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science and was singled out at Air Command and Staff College as his class’ distinguished graduate in 1994. He has commanded Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command, and also served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.
The historic 98-0 Senate vote to confirm Brown saw Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the process–an unusual move as the Vice President historically serves as s tie-breaker in hotly contested votes. Instead, Pence said he attended to confirmation because of its historic significance.
Today is a Historic Day for our Nation. The Senate has confirmed President @realDonaldTrump’s nominee, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. as Chief of Staff to the @usairforce—the first-ever African American Service Chief in the history of our Country. Congratulations General Brown! pic.twitter.com/6nbjUG01F8
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) June 9, 2020
Vice President Pence wasn’t the only leader to extend their congratulations to General Brown. Chief of Space Operations and fellow service chief, Gen. Jay Raymond also congratulated Brown on his confirmation.
“Gen. Brown is an innovative leader who clearly understands the complex and evolving strategic environment we face today as a Department,” Raymond said. “He clearly understands the importance of leading across all domains to compete, deter and win — especially in war-fighting domains like space. I am thrilled with Gen. Brown’s confirmation. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett took to Twitter to point to Brown’s credentials and accolades as a military leader.
.@USAirForce, @SpaceForceDOD & I congratulate Gen. Brown & his wife, Sharene, on his confirmation as #CSAF! Gen. Brown's unrivaled leadership, operational experience & global perspective will prove crucial to modernizing the #USAF to meet tomorrow's national security challenges. pic.twitter.com/JPUBY6hD7X
— Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett (@SecAFOfficial) June 9, 2020
Brown’s confirmation comes at a challenging time for America, as protests regarding racial injustice continue to take place in cities all around the nation, following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody.
Earlier this week, Brown released a heartfelt video in which he described the challenges of being a black man in America, and an officer in the United States Air Force–a dichotomy Brown described as having to lead two distinct lives.
“I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove [that my supervisors’] perceptions and expectations of African Americans were invalid,” he said in the video. “I’m thinking about the airmen who don’t have a life similar to mine, and don’t have to navigate through two worlds. I’m thinking about how these airmen see racism, where they don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, or whether they’re empathetic.”
"As the Commander of Pacific Air Forces, a senior leader in our Air Force, and an African-American, many of you may be wondering what I’m thinking about the current events surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd. Here’s what I’m thinking about…" – Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. pic.twitter.com/I2sf1067L6
— PACAF (@PACAF) June 5, 2020
The officer responsible for Floyd’s death has been charged with second degree murder and the other three officers involved in the incident have also been taken into custody–but the incident itself has served as a pivot point for many Americans who have used Floyd’s death as an impetus for positive change in their community and nation. Protests throughout the country calling for racial equality have garnered support from service leaders in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–but it was the Air Force that first spoke out about race in recent weeks.
On June 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright published an Op-Ed on his social media accounts outlining his concerns as a black man and the senior enlisted leader of America’s Air Force.
“Like you, I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. Trust me, I understand this is a difficult topic to talk about…
Following CMSAF Wright’s post, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Goldfein, also released a statement and the two leaders released a number of videos and participated in town hall discussions about race within their branch.