Air Drive fighter pilot tapped by Biden to be subsequent Joint Chiefs chairman has historical past of firsts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Drive fighter pilot about to be nominated as the subsequent chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees obtained his name signal by ejecting from a burning F-16 fighter jet excessive above the Florida Everglades and falling into the watery sludge under.

It was January 1991, and then-Capt. CQ Brown Jr. had simply sufficient time in his parachute above alligator-full wetlands for a thought to pop into his head. “Hope there’s nothing down there,” Brown stated in an interview on the Aspen Safety Discussion board final yr.

He landed within the muck, which coated his physique and obtained “in his boots and all the things.” Which is how the nominee to be the nation’s subsequent high navy officer obtained his name signal: “Swamp Factor.”

Brown, now a four-star normal and the Air Drive chief, will likely be nominated by President Joe Biden on Thursday. If confirmed, Brown would substitute Military Gen. Mark Milley, whose time period ends in October. Biden is scheduled to unveil Brown as his choose throughout a Rose Backyard occasion on Thursday afternoon.

“CQ is completely very good and I’m wanting ahead to a speedy affirmation,” Milley stated at a Pentagon information convention.

The decision signal reveal was a uncommon inside look into Brown, who retains his playing cards near his chest. He’s spent a lot of his profession being one of many Air Drive’s high aviators, one in every of its few Black pilots and sometimes one of many solely African People in his squadron.

To this present day, his core tenets are to “execute at a excessive normal, personally and professionally,” Brown stated this month at an Air Drive Affiliation convention in Colorado. “I don’t play for second place. If I’m in, I’m in to win — I don’t play to lose.”

He’s been many firsts, together with the Air Drive’s first Black commander of the Pacific Air Forces, and most not too long ago its first Black chief of workers, making him the primary African American to guide any of the navy branches.

If confirmed, he can be a part of one other first — the primary time the Pentagon’s high two posts have been held by African People, with Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin the highest civilian chief. Brown wouldn’t be the primary African American to be chairman, the Pentagon’s high navy put up; that distinction went to the late Military Gen. Colin Powell.

Brown, 60, has commanded the nation’s air energy in any respect ranges. Born in San Antonio, he’s from a household of Military troopers. His grandfather led a segregated Military unit in World Struggle II and his father was an artillery officer and Vietnam Struggle veteran. Brown grew up on a number of navy bases and states, which helped instill in him a way of mission.

His nomination caps a four-decade navy profession that spans his fee as a distinguished ROTC graduate from Texas Tech College in 1984 to his White Home nomination this week. He was broadly considered inside navy circles because the frontrunner for the chairmanship, with the best instructions and a monitor document of driving institutional change, attributes seen as wanted to push the Pentagon onto a extra fashionable footing to satisfy China’s rise.

For the previous two years Brown has pressed “Speed up, Change or Lose” throughout the Air Drive. The marketing campaign very a lot has China in thoughts, pushing the service to shed legacy warplanes and velocity its efforts to counter hypersonics, drones and area weapons, the place the navy’s lingering Chilly Struggle-era stock doesn’t match up.

In particular person, Brown is non-public, considerate and deliberate. He’s seen as a distinction to Milley, who has remained outspoken all through his tenure, usually to the ire of former President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

“He’s not vulnerable to blurt out one thing with out some critical thought in his personal thoughts, some critical type of balancing of the alternatives or choices,” stated retired Air Drive Chief of Employees Gen. Michael Moseley, who is aware of Brown from when Brown labored for him as a member of the Air Employees.

Brown has greater than 3,000 flying hours and repeat assignments to the Air Drive Weapons Faculty — an elite aerial preventing college much like the Navy’s TOPGUN. Solely about 1% of Air Drive fighter pilots are accepted, Moseley stated.

When Brown needed to eject from the burning F-16 in 1991, after the gasoline tank broke off mid-flight, he stated the timing couldn’t have been worse.

“I used to be a bit annoyed as a result of it occurred simply earlier than the choice for weapons college,” he stated on the Aspen discussion board. He stated he needed to apply thrice earlier than he obtained in, noting that it’s “fairly aggressive.”

However he rose to the highest there, too, incomes a spot as an teacher, “which is like 1% of the 1%,” Moseley stated.

Brown returned to the weapons college as its commandant. By then it had expanded from fighter-only exclusivity to educating mixed airpower operations, with tankers, bombers and cargo planes.

Brown noticed that the varsity “required a unique method and angle,” stated retired Air Drive Lt. Gen. Invoice Rew. Earlier commandants had tried to institute a brand new mantra, “Humble, Approachable, Credible,” however it had not taken root.

Below Brown the cultural shift took maintain and stays in place at present, stated Rew, who was one in every of Brown’s instructors on the weapons college and wing commander throughout Brown’s time as commandant.

“It takes a sure type of management, that doesn’t pressure cultural change on individuals however explains it and motivates them on why that change is essential,” Rew stated.

In June 2020, Brown was only a week from being confirmed by the Senate to function chief of workers of the Air Drive when he felt the necessity to communicate out on George Floyd’s homicide.

It was dangerous and inopportune time for the final to attract public consideration and pull again the curtain on his non-public ideas. However he did so anyway, after discussions together with his spouse and sons in regards to the homicide, which satisfied him he wanted to say one thing.

In a June 2020 video message to the service titled “Right here’s What I’m Pondering About,” Brown described how he’d pressured himself “to carry out error-free” as a pilot and officer his entire life, however nonetheless confronted bias. He stated he’d been questioned about his credentials, even when he wore the identical flight swimsuit and wings as each different pilot.

It’s been 30 years since Powell grew to become the primary Black chairman, serving from 1989 to 1993. However whereas African People make up 17.2% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members, solely 9% of officers are Black, in accordance with a 2021 Protection Division report.

“I’m excited about my mentors and the way I hardly ever had a mentor that regarded like me,” Brown stated within the video.

“I’m excited about how my nomination offers some hope, but in addition comes with a heavy burden — I can’t repair centuries of racism in our nation, nor can I repair a long time of discrimination that will have impacted members of our Air Drive.

“I’m excited about how I could make enhancements, personally, professionally and institutionally,” so all airmen might excel.

His resolution to talk out didn’t value him. His Senate affirmation vote was 98-0.

However just like the transient second in Aspen, the non-public video message was a rarity. After affirmation, he lowered his public profile once more, and set to work.

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