Gen. Brown said his nomination came with a "heavy burden" in an emotional video he shared discussing racism and George Floyd

By Rachel DeSantis
June 10, 2020 12:43 PM
General Charles Brown
Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.
| Credit: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. became the first Black person to ever lead a branch of the U.S. military on Tuesday, when the Senate confirmed him as the Air Force’s newest chief of staff.

The vote to confirm Brown was a unanimous 98-0, and he will replace Gen. David Goldfein at a swearing-in ceremony on Aug. 6.

Brown, who is currently the U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, is a graduate of Texas Tech University’s ROTC program, and has flown more than 2,900 hours as a command pilot, including 130 hours in combat. He is also the air component commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

He was nominated to the position by President Donald Trump, who wrote on Twitter that Brown’s confirmation represented “a historic day for America.”

“Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!” Trump wrote.

Of the 41 most senior commanders in the military, just two, including, Brown, are Black, according to The New York Times.

The general spoke to his experiences as a Black man in the Air Force in a video shared last week. He discussed all the different things he was thinking about following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that have emerged against police brutality and systemic racism.

Brown said he recalled days when he and his sister were the only African-American students in their school, and then later, days when he was the only African-American person in his squadron.

“I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers and then being questioned by another military member, ‘Are you a pilot?’” he said, also remembering insensitive comments, being told he wasn’t “Black enough” and never having a mentor that looked like him.

He continued, “I’m thinking about how my nomination provides some hope, but also comes with a heavy burden. I can’t fix centuries of racism in our country, nor can I fix decades of discrimination that may have impacted members of our Air Force.”

Brown is the second Black officer to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Colin Powell, according to CBS News.