Meet Your Next Chief of Staff of the Air Force: Gen. Charles Q. Brown

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of Pacific Air Forces, has been nominated to be the 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced March 2, confirming Air Force Magazine’s earlier report. Brown will succeed Gen. David Goldfein, whose tenure ends June 30.

If confirmed, Brown would be the first African American to serve as Chief of Staff of any of the U.S. Armed Forces. The only other African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff was Army Gen. Colin Powell, who was Chairman from 1989-1993.

The coming nomination was widely, but unofficially, discussed last week during AFAs Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Several senior leaders referred to it as “the worst-kept secret in the Air Force.” Sources reported that the other leading candidate for the job was Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.

“I am truly honored and humbled by the nomination to serve as the Air Force’s 22nd Chief of Staff, Brown said in March 2 statement. “If confirmed, Sharene and I look forward to building upon the legacy of Gen. Dave and Dawn Goldfein, and the many airpower giants before who have served our Air Force and our nation with such dedication.

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said the nation and the service will be “well served by the formidable talents of C.Q. Brown. … 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.”

Esper called Goldfein a “tireless servant-leader … in championing the Air Force our nation needs. This is important, yet difficult work that will only grow more complicated as the security environment continuously changes in this era of Great Power Competition.”

It is unusual for an incoming Chief of Staff to be nominated so far in advance of the retirement of the outgoing Chief; typically, such nominations are made about six weeks in advance. But the timing is consistent with the early announcement of Army Gen. Mark A. Milley to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which preceded his taking the job by more than 10 months.

Goldfein, congratulating Brown, called him “one of the finest warriors our Air Force has ever produced. He’s led worldwide—in the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa …When it comes to global, operational savvy, there’s nobody stronger.”

Gen. Jay Raymond, head of the newly minted U.S. Space Force, called Brown “the right strategic leader” for the two services at this time. “He clearly understands the evolving and complex strategic environment we face and recognizes the importance of integrating across all domains to compete, deter, and win.”

Brown said his 35-year career has been guided by his four tenants:

  • Execute at a high standard
  • Be disciplined in execution
  • Pay attention to details
  • “Have fun.”

Brown graduated from Texas Tech University in 1984 with a degree in Civil Engineering, and was commissioned as a Distinguished Graduate of the ROTC program in 1985. Since earning his wings in 1986, he has spent the majority of his career around F-16s, commanding a flight, fighter squadron, and two fighter wings: the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano, Italy.

Brown served as aide-de-camp to Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald Fogleman from October 1994-July 1996 and was a National Defense Fellow with the Institute for Defense Analyses from July 2003-June 2004. He was commandant of the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., from July 2005 to May, 2007. Beginning in June 2008, he spent a year as Director of the Executive Action Group for the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff.

Brown was deputy commander and commander of Air Forces Central Command, and commander, Combined Forces Air Component Command for CENTCOM. From July 2016-July 2018, he was deputy commander of CENTCOM. Brown has led PACAF since July 2018, where he serves as the Air Force component commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Over the course of his 37-year career, he has accumulated more than 2,900 flying hours, including 130 combat hours.