Senate confirms nation’s first African American service chief

The Senate has confirmed the U.S. military’s first African American service chief.

In a unanimous 98-0 vote presided over by Vice President Pence, a rare occasion, the Senate voted to confirm Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown as the Air Force’s next chief of staff.

In addition to being the first African American military service chief, Brown will be the first African American to sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Colin Powell was chairman from 1989 to 1993.

The historic confirmation comes as the nation is gripped by protests over racial injustice that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died when a police officer who has since been charged with second-degree murder knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

In a video last week, Brown spoke starkly about his feelings on Floyd’s death and being an African American service member.

“As the commander of Pacific Air Forces, a senior leader in our Air Force and an African American, many of you may be wondering what I’m thinking about the current events surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd,” Brown said.

“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,” added Brown, who also spoke about navigating “two worlds.”

President Trump, who has come under criticism for threatening to deploy active-duty troops to quell the protests, celebrated Brown’s confirmation Tuesday before the Senate even started voting.

“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,” Trump tweeted about a half hour before the vote. “A historic day for America! Excited to work even more closely with Gen. Brown, who is a Patriot and Great Leader!”

Brown, who has been the commander of Pacific Air Forces since July 2018, will take over for current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who is expected to retire later this summer. The Air Force said Tuesday that Brown’s swearing-in ceremony will be held Aug. 6.

Trump nominated Brown in March, but his confirmation was delayed first by Senate scheduling uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic and then, as reported by Defense News, by an informal hold Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) placed on the nomination over questions about the Air Force’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker.

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.

Updated at 4:30 p.m.

Tags Air Force Colin Powell Dan Sullivan Donald Trump Pentagon

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