How Gen. Charles Q. Brown Became the Nation’s Highest-Ranking Officer

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is understood for being regular in a storm.

There was the time in 1991 when his F-16 was struck by lightning and he needed to eject into the alligator-infested Everglades, incomes the decision signal “Swamp Thang.” The time in 2020, simply days earlier than his Senate affirmation vote to be Air Force chief, when he spoke quietly however forcefully in a video of the various African Americans who’ve suffered the identical destiny as George Floyd.

And there was this previous summer time, when his affirmation vote to be President Biden’s senior navy adviser was held up for months by a lone Republican senator from Alabama. General Brown, often called C.Q., stored his head down as Democrats and Republicans locked horns.

“You know that old commercial, ‘When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen?’” Gen. David L. Goldfein, a retired former Air Force chief of employees, mentioned in an interview. “C.Q. is the guy in the room who would never have the most words to say, but he always had the most to offer.”

On Friday, General Brown, a four-star Air Force fighter pilot with 130 fight flying hours throughout his 39 years of service, will probably be sworn in because the highest-ranking navy officer within the nation. He will succeed Gen. Mark A. Milley, whose tenure was formed by a mercurial president and disaster after disaster.

The navy is avowedly apolitical, however that proved difficult beneath President Donald J. Trump, who usually tried to make use of the navy for political functions. The tensions led to the disintegration of his relationship with General Milley. As just lately as final week, Mr. Trump was nonetheless voicing his ire, calling General Milley a “woke train wreck.”

But General Brown, his colleagues on the Pentagon say, is prepared for no matter comes his manner in his four-year time period.

“In addition to being steady, C.Q. is tremendously collaborative, and a team player, and I believe he’ll be able to work with, and communicate with, and lead, in any situation in the future,” mentioned Admiral Craig S. Faller, who’s retired and served with General Brown once they have been each at Central Command.

Admiral Faller additionally was the senior navy assistant to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis throughout the Trump administration. Mr. Mattis resigned two years into his time period in protest of Mr. Trump’s Syria coverage and his rejection of worldwide alliances.

The admiral mentioned that in their time collectively at Central Command, General Brown was recognized for his potential to “lower the pulse beat” on any disaster, whether or not it was Yemen or Iran or piracy.

“Often C.Q. would be running the counterterror ops, and if I said, ‘C.Q. is going to be there,’ commanders were like, ‘Oh great, no problem then, got it,’” Admiral Faller mentioned.

Born in San Antonio in 1962 to a navy household, the younger Chuck, as he was known as again then, grew up decided to be an architect, although his father, Charles Q. Brown, served two excursions in Vietnam within the Army, retiring as a colonel. His grandfather, Robert E. Brown, served within the Pacific throughout World War II.

The elder Charles Brown talked his son into becoming a member of R.O.T.C. at Texas Tech, telling him that “four years in the military won’t hurt you,” General Brown mentioned in an interview. Six months into it, the younger C.Q. wished out. R.O.T.C. meant much less time to hold together with his buddies and play intramural sports activities.

But then, throughout a summer time program at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, he went up in a Cessna T-37, a small, noisy twin-engine that was affectionately often called “Tweety Bird” due to the high-pitched shrieking and whistling it made. The flight was “like a roller coaster,” General Brown recalled.

And similar to that, he was hooked.

In 1984, General Brown obtained his Air Force fee.

Seven years later he was flying an F-16A Fighting Falcon over a populated space close to Homestead, Fla., when lightning struck. General Brown noticed the flash of sunshine, however it was an Air Force supervisor who instructed him over the radio that his aircraft was on fireplace. General Brown described the story within the traditional matter-of-fact manner that pilots discuss life-or-death occasions within the sky.

“He said, ‘You lost your centerline gas tank, and there’s a little bit of fire back there,’” General Brown recalled.

He turned his aircraft towards the Everglades and pulled the yellow ejection deal with, parachuting into the swamp under. And “Swamp Thang” was born.

In the halls of the Pentagon, nobody is looking him that now. He is “C.Q.” to all, though enlisted women and men would by no means say that to his face.

But he electrified those self same enlisted ranks together with his George Floyd video in 2020. Against a darkish background, a solemn General Brown, clad in fatigues, stared into the digicam.

“As the commander of Pacific air forces, and 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,” General Brown mentioned. “Here’s what I’m thinking about.”

Admiral Faller mentioned he was so moved by the video that he known as his buddy and requested General Brown to look at one in every of his weekly digital “brown bag” periods.

“Normally, we would get 100 people or so,” Admiral Faller mentioned. “For C.Q., we got, like, 500 people.”

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