Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown has taken the reins of the Air Force, officially becoming the first African American general to lead a branch of the U.S. military.
Brown was officially sworn in as Air Force chief of staff in a ceremony Thursday at Joint Base Andrews, Md., where the oath was administered by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett.
“This is a very historic day for our nation, and I do not take this moment lightly,” Brown said at Thursday’s ceremony. “Today’s possible due to the perseverance of those who went before me, serving as an inspiration to me and so many others. Those like the Tuskegee Airmen, Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Chappie James, Charles McGee, African American leaders across our Air Force and our military, past and present, including today’s special guest, Mr. Ed Dwight, America’s first African American astronaut candidate.”
“It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force chief of staff,” Brown added.
The ceremony also marked the retirement of outgoing Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein after a 37-year career that included getting shot down in Serbia in 1999, and was capped by President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the ‘Secretary of Failure’ Pence: Chief Justice Roberts ‘has been a disappointment to conservatives’ Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE’s surprise decision to pass him over for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in favor of Gen. Mark Milley.
In his parting speech, Goldfein recounted all the responsibilities that walking the halls of the Pentagon each day reminded him of, including the need for an apolitical military.
“As Chairman Milley reminded us all last month, military members swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Goldfein said. “We, the U.S. military, hold dear the Constitution and the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic.”
The Air Force chief of staff transition ceremony comes two days after Trump held a ceremonial swearing-in for Brown in the Oval Office, a rarity for a service chief. Trump, who was not initially expected to participate in Tuesday’s ceremony, moved the event at the last minute from the vice president’s ceremonial office because, Trump said, “this is the big leagues.”
Brown is becoming the nation’s first Black military service chief at a time of significant unrest throughout the United States over racial injustices and police violence.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for its handling of the protests as it cracks down on demonstrators using federal law enforcement officers clad in military-style camouflage uniforms.
The Pentagon, after its leaders faced initial criticism for their role in Trump’s response to the protests, has been working to address racism in its ranks with listening sessions and other initiatives.
During the height of unrest in June, Brown spoke starkly about his experiences as a Black member of the military and his feelings on the death of George Floyd that sparked the protests.
“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,” said Brown, who also spoke about navigating “two worlds.”
In addition to being the first African American service chief, Brown is the first African American to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Colin PowellColin Luther PowellTrump participates in swearing-in of first African American service chief Sinking Trump seeks to squash GOP dissent Powell said he supports push to rename Army bases named after Confederate leaders MORE was chairman from 1989 to 1993.
Brown, who most recently served as commander of Pacific Air Forces, was confirmed by the Senate in June in a 98-0 vote.
Prior to leading Pacific Air Forces, Brown was the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.
His résumé also includes time as the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command in 2015 and 2016 during the height of the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
He has also served multiple tours across Europe, Asia and the Middle East as an F-16 fighter jet pilot, racking up more than 2,900 flying hours.
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