TIME named Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” on Tuesday.
“CQ has opened doors throughout his career and made sure that they have stayed open for those who follow,” former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson wrote.
Earlier this summer, Brown became the United States’ first Black chief of military service. On that historic day, Brown expressed gratitude toward service members who came before him who never got the same chances because of the color of their skin.
“It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force chief of staff,” Brown said after swearing-in.
President Donald Trump hosted the ceremony in the Oval Office where Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to Brown, who was confirmed by the Senate in a 98-0 vote.
“It is a distinct honor for me to have this opportunity,” Brown said to President Trump after the Commander in Chief praised Brown’s “amazing achievement.”
Commissioned in 1984, Brown was a distinguished graduate of Texas Tech University’s ROTC program. Throughout his career, Brown has served in an assortment of positions, including an assignment as an F-16 Fighting Falcon Instructor at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School.
In addition to commanding a fighter squadron, Brown has also led the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings and U.S. Air Forces Central Command. Brown also served as the commander of Pacific Air Forces, Air Component Commander for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. As a command pilot, he has more than 2,900 flying hours, including 130 combat hours.
During a time of heightened racial sensitivity in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, Brown’s new office put him in a unique position.
Brown addressed Floyd’s death in a video that went viral earlier this summer. He said his historic promotion held “immense expectations…particularly through the lens of current events plaguing our nation.”
In the video titled “What I’m Thinking About,” Brown talked about his experiences as an African American man in the Air Force. He remembered being the only African American in his squadron and in meetings of senior leaders. Brown also recalled having a colleague question whether he was a pilot.
“I’m thinking about the protests in my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…and the Constitution that I’ve sworn my adult life to support and defend,” Brown said.
Looking forward, the 58-year-old general is set to lead the Air Force through a transitional period that includes the establishment of the Space Force, changes as a result of COVID-19, and the threat of China.