Brown Takes Over as Air Force Chief of Staff

 In U.S. Air Force, Defense, Air, Space, Forces & Capabilities

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. offi­cial­ly took the reins as Chief of Staff of the Air Force in an Aug. 6 cer­e­mo­ny mark­ing the tran­si­tion of lead­er­ship from retir­ing Gen. David L. Goldfein.

Against a back­drop of modern jets and a World War II-era P‑51 in a hangar at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Brown pledged to build on Goldfein’s top three pri­or­i­ties: Empowering squadrons, build­ing the Air Force’s place in the joint force, and devel­op­ing joint all-domain com­mand and con­trol.

He will over­see nearly 700,000 Airmen and work along­side Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond as the Space Force stands up within the Department of the Air Force.

“We must no longer defer, but must accel­er­ate the needed change and tough choic­es we’ve often dis­cussed,” while empow­er­ing Airmen and improv­ing their qual­i­ty of life, Brown said. Those chal­lenges, from address­ing racism to build­ing the future air­craft fleet, will be “dif­fi­cult, but not impos­si­ble” to meet.

He has also raised the idea that it’s time to rethink how the mil­i­tary splits up its roles and mis­sions, which could lead to notable changes during his tenure.

Brown, the first African American offi­cer to lead a U.S. mil­i­tary ser­vice, thanked his family and the Black Air Force lead­ers who pre­ced­ed him, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, Gen. Daniel James Jr., spe­cial assis­tant to the Air Force chief of staff in the 1970s, and Edward J. Dwight, the first Black man who trained as an astro­naut. While retired Army Gen. Colin Powell was chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he never led a mil­i­tary ser­vice.

“I’m in awe that I’m even stand­ing here as the 22nd Air Force Chief of Staff, con­sid­er­ing I’d only planned to stay in the Air Force four years, and I almost quit ROTC after the first semes­ter,” Brown said.

“You can expect my lead­er­ship to be framed by the same four tenets I’ve used through­out my career: exe­cute at a high stan­dard, be dis­ci­plined in exe­cu­tion, pay atten­tion to details, and have fun,” he added.

He returns to the Pentagon from Pacific Air Forces, where he man­aged resources for air combat oper­a­tions in the vast Indo-Pacific. Maintaining a strong U.S. pres­ence in the region is a top pri­or­i­ty of the cur­rent National Defense Strategy.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper recount­ed Brown’s long string of combat assign­ments in key hot spots around the world — the Middle East, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific — as well as his time run­ning the Air Force Weapons School. The new chief “mas­ter­ful­ly orches­trat­ed and led the air war against the Islamic State,” and is “humble, approach­able, and cred­i­ble,” Esper said.

Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised Brown as a leader who has made the mil­i­tary a more ready, stronger part­ner in combat the­aters around the world.

“In C.Q., we have all that is good about America,” Milley said. The lead­er­ship change is “really about an idea that’s worth defend­ing. … Under the stars and stripes, we are all Americans.”

Meanwhile, Goldfein will retire to San Antonio, Texas, after nearly 40 years in the mil­i­tary and four as CSAF.

Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett paid trib­ute to Goldfein’s excep­tion­al career as an Airman, recount­ing the hero­ics that led to his two Distinguished Flying Crosses. After being shot down, evad­ing cap­ture, and get­ting res­cued in the Balkans in 1999, Goldfein flew a mis­sion “the very next night,” Barrett said. Among the air­craft in the hangar were an F‑16 like Goldfein’s, and an HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue heli­copter to com­mem­o­rate those who res­cued him.

“Dave Goldfein is an extra­or­di­nary war­rior,” Barrett said. She noted many indi­vid­ual sto­ries of his help and encour­age­ment to airmen, and his per­sis­tence in obtain­ing a posthu­mous Medal of Honor for MSgt. John Chapman.

“He has said that what is best for the joint force is best for the Air Force,” Barrett observed. “Among his lega­cies are squadron revi­tal­iza­tion; force mod­ern­iza­tion; the B‑21 Raider, data man­age­ment dig­i­ti­za­tion; mon­u­men­tal ground­work behind the Space Force, and the ever-present JADC2,” which Goldfein cham­pi­oned among the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Barrett did not men­tion the selec­tion of the T‑7A Red Hawk train­er jet as anoth­er mod­ern­iza­tion mile­stone on Goldfein’s watch, but one of the first exam­ples of the plane was in the hangar along­side an F‑35A Joint Strike Fighter.

Milley paid trib­ute to Goldfein’s char­ac­ter, saying he “never backs down from truth to power” and stays cool under pres­sure. Goldfein is the “most pro­fes­sion­al offi­cer” he has ever encoun­tered, Milley said.

Esper also thanked Goldfein and his family for their “unfail­ing devo­tion” to the nation over his 37-year career.

Goldfein led “the most advanced, the most capa­ble, and the most lethal Air Force in the world and in his­to­ry,” Esper said, “push­ing a budget of nearly $700 bil­lion” over five years to sup­port global combat oper­a­tions and advance per­son­nel and research ini­tia­tives.

Goldfein was the right offi­cer to shift the focus of the Air Force to great power com­pe­ti­tion when the new National Defense Strategy rolled out in 2018, Esper said, and the ser­vice is stronger because of his lead­er­ship.

Goldfein thanked his wife Dawn, his family, men­tors, and all Air Force mem­bers and civil­ians, call­ing the run­ning of the ser­vice “the ulti­mate team con­tact sport.” He urged the Air Force to stay ahead of change, quot­ing Italian air­pow­er vision­ary Giulio Douhet as saying, “Victory smiles upon those who antic­i­pate the change in the char­ac­ter of war, not upon those who wait to adapt them­selves after the changes occur.”

Brown is a true war­rior, leader, and friend, Goldfein said: “The future of the Air Force has never been brighter.”

The Heritage Flight performs aerial maneuvers at Joint Base Andrews, Md., on Aug. 6, 2020. The aircraft were part of an aerial review following a transition of responsibility ceremony where Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. assumed the responsibilities of Air Force Chief of Staff from Gen. David L. Goldfein. Photo: Airman 1st Class Bridgitte Taylor

The cer­e­mo­ny was fol­lowed by A‑10, F‑16, F‑22, and P‑51 fly­overs as well as a per­for­mance by the Thunderbirds aerial demon­stra­tion team. The flight line also fea­tured a B‑52 and B‑2 stealth bomber on static dis­play, along with C‑17 and KC-135 tanker air­craft.

Editor’s Note: This story was updat­ed on Aug. 6 at 5:11 p.m. EDT to include cer­e­mo­ny video.

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