White House Nominates Nation's 1st African American Military Service Chief

Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. attends a briefing by Air Commodore Rob Chipman.
Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. attends a briefing by Air Commodore Rob Chipman at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base, Williamtown, Ausltralia, Aug. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux)

The White House has nominated Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown to be the next top general to lead the U.S. Air Force. The nomination, announced by the Defense Department Monday afternoon, would make him the first African American officer to serve as the top uniformed officer for any of the military branches.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Monday that Brown, currently the head of Pacific Air Forces, would be tapped for 22nd Air Force chief of staff, following Gen. David Goldfein, who is set to retire this summer after four years in the position. Brown would also be the first black officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since then-Army Gen. Colin Powell served as chairman between 1989 and 1993.

"The [Air Force] will be well served by the formidable talents of CQ Brown," Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said in a tweet following the announcement. "He has unmatched strategic vision and operational expertise. His leadership will be instrumental as the service continues to focus on the capabilities and talent we need to implement the [National Defense Strategy]."

Before his post at PACAF, Brown was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. He also served as the head of Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) between 2015 and 2016, during the height of the air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The highly decorated commander, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot by training, commissioned in 1984 and has accumulated more than 2,900 flight hours, including 130 combat hours in various aircraft.

With posts that have taken him across Europe, the Pacific and the Middle East, Brown has also "commanded a fighter squadron, the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, and two fighter wings" throughout his career, his bio states.

Despite publicly stated efforts across the military services to attract and retain minority troops, the most senior ranks remain largely homogenous. A 2015 report from USA Today found that, of 280 Air Force generals at the time, just 18 belonged to minority groups, and just 13 -- or 4% of the total -- were African American.

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Between 2014 and 2015, Brown was the director of operations, strategic deterrence and nuclear integration at U.S. Air Forces in Europe. During that time, the general told Air Force Times he had been focused on watching Russia's activities unfold in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but quickly had to switch gears during his tour to focus on deterring ISIS forces from making gains in Iraq and Syria.

"When you ask me what my biggest accomplishment was during this time of my [AFCENT] command, [strategic] targeting. That was it," Brown told this reporter during an interview in 2016.

Brown's goal at the command was to streamline processes between the Air Force, coalition air components and the intelligence community to create better dynamic and deliberate targeting operations for battlefield success.

"In the last 15 years or so, we've done a lot of close-air support for troops in contact and overwatch, and the deliberate targeting process -- we lost a little muscle memory from what we had in the past," he said, referencing operations in Afghanistan. "So I think this is something that's going to help us in the [Central Command area of operations] and in other contingencies later on that we as a nation or we as the coalition team may face in the future."

Like his PACAF predecessor, Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, Brown has worked to improve collaboration with partner forces, with an emphasis on integrating fifth-generation combat capabilities, such as those within the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, into theater.

"Our allies and partners are on the front lines of fifth-generation integration in the Indo-Pacific," Brown said in 2018, referencing how the U.S., Australia, Japan and South Korea will all operate the F-35 in coming years.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her at @oriana0214.

Read more: History-Making Air Force General Isn't About 'Firsts'

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