It’s Official: Gen. CQ Brown Confirmed as 1st African American Military Service Chief

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Air Force Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown
U.S. Air Force Gen. CQ Brown Jr. gets ready for the aerial demonstrations during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 in Padang Mat Sirat, Malaysia, on March 26, 2019. On June 9, 2020, he became the first African American chief of staff of any of the services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leonard Adams)

Air Force Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown is officially the next leader of the U.S. Air Force and the first African American officer to ever serve as the top uniformed officer of any of the military branches.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Brown, currently the head of Pacific Air Forces, in a unanimous 98-0 vote to be the service's 22nd chief of staff.

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"The U.S. Air Force, Space Force and I congratulate Gen. Brown & his wife, Sharene, on his confirmation as #CSAF!" Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett tweeted after the vote. "Gen. Brown's unrivaled leadership, operational experience & global perspective will prove crucial to modernizing the #USAF to meet tomorrow's national security challenges."

Though the vote had yet to take place, President Donald Trump tweeted, "My decision to appoint @usairforce General Charles Brown as the USA's first-ever African American military service chief has now been approved by the Senate.

"A historic day for America!" he added. "Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!"

Last week, Brown spoke out about a life in which he has tried to fit in as an African American man in everyday life, as well as in uniform.

"I'm thinking about how full I am with emotion, not just for George Floyd, but the many African Americans that have suffered the same fate as George Floyd," he said in a passionate video posted on social media.

Brown, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, described his military experience as "living in two worlds," with some questioning whether he even belonged in the ranks.

"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."

While leaders across the branches have spoken out since the May 25 death of Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, the Air Force has stood out on the issue.

The White House in March put forth Brown's nomination. He follows Gen. David Goldfein, who is set to retire this summer after four years in the position.

Brown will also be the first black officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Army Gen. Colin Powell, now retired, served as chairman between 1989 and 1993.

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 between 2015 and 2016, during the height of the air campaign against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The highly decorated commander commissioned in 1984 and has accumulated more than 2,900 flight hours, including 130 combat hours in various aircraft, according to his biography.

Prior to his historic confirmation, Brown last week called airmen's attention to openly discussing disparities in the ranks.

"I want to know what you're thinking about," he said. "I want to hear what you're thinking about, and how together, we can make a difference."

Here are other Air Force generals nominated for top positions across the force:

  • Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach was nominated for his fourth star and to replace Brown as the next Pacific Air Forces commander. Wilsbach is currently commander of the 7th Air Force and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea.
  • Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon, has been nominated to pin on his fourth star and become head of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, replacing Gen. Mike Holmes, who's set to retire.
  • Lt. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, also submitted to pin on her fourth star, has been nominated to become commander of Air Mobility Command. Van Ovost is currently AMC's deputy commander at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. She would replace Gen. Maryanne Miller, who assumed the position in 2018.
  • The head of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella Jr., was confirmed to be the next deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon by a voice vote in the Senate in May.
  • Maj. Gen. Gregory Guillot, director of operations for U.S. Northern Command, would receive his third star and, if confirmed, will replace Guastella, according to an officer promotion announcement made in May.
  • The Defense Department also announced in May that Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, Colorado's adjutant general, has been nominated for a third star and to become the director of the Air National Guard, taking over for Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

Related: 'Only African American in the Room:' Next Air Force Chief of Staff Speaks Out on Racism in Ranks

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