Trump Hosts Swearing-In of Gen. Charles Brown Jr., First Black Service Chief

August 5, 2020 Updated: August 5, 2020

Gen. Charles Brown Jr. was sworn in as the Air Force’s chief of staff during a ceremony hosted by President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Aug. 4, making him first black chief of staff of a U.S. military branch.

The ceremony followed a 98–0 vote by the Senate on June 9 to approve Brown for the position.

The oath of office was administered to Brown by Vice President Mike Pence.

The president described the moment as “very special” and an “incredible occasion,” telling Brown that he was “very proud” to have him in the Oval Office.

Mike Pence (L) and President Donald Trump attend the swearing in ceremony
Vice President Mike Pence (L) and President Donald Trump attend the swearing-in ceremony for General Charles Q. Brown (2nd R), as the incoming chief of staff of the Air Force, in the Oval Office of the White House on Aug. 4, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Sharene T. Guilford Brown, Charles Q. Brown Jr.
Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. is sworn is as chief of staff of the Air Force as his wife, Sharene Guilford Brown, holds a Bible, in the Oval Office of the White House on Aug. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“You have had an incredible career, and this is a capper, and I just want to congratulate you,” Trump said. “And it’s an honor to have you in this very fabled office and to have you in the White House.”

Before being approved as chief of staff for the Air Force, Brown served as commander of the Pacific Air Forces, which is responsible for Air Force activities spread over half the globe.

Brown was commissioned in 1984 as a distinguished graduate of the ROTC program at Texas Tech University, according to his military biography. Brown served in a variety of positions, including an assignment to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School as an F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor. Other roles included secretary of the Air Force and aide-de-camp to the chief of staff of the force.

Brown spent more than 2,900 hours flying as a command pilot.

“It is a distinct honor for me to have this opportunity,” Brown told the president. “And so I feel very honored and blessed.”

charles brown
Gen. Charles Q. Brown embraces family members after being sworn in as the incoming chief of staff of the Air Force as U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence look on, in the Oval Office of the White House on Aug. 4, 2020. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper extended his congratulations to Brown during the ceremony, telling the president that the event marks a “historic day.”

“I’m so pleased to have General Brown selected for chief of staff of the Air Force,” Esper said. “Thank you, Mr. President. A great choice. And I know he’s going to lead our Air Force well into the next century and beyond.”

Outlining his position on how he’d approach heading the Air Force, Brown said previously, “To compete, deter, and win, we will need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries.”

“If confirmed, I am an advocate for early and constant collaboration between operators, acquisition professionals, and industry partners to unleash innovation and spiral development so that the warfighter has access to the most capable and state-of-the-art assets, sooner than later,” he said. He agreed with Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) about the need to modernize land-based nuclear deterrents.

Brown will assume the post later this week.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.