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From fighter pilot to 4-star: Brown takes command of Pacific Air Forces

Air Force Gen. Charles Brown Jr. assumed command of Pacific Air Forces during a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Thursday, July 26, 2018, shortly after receiving his fourth star.

TONY WICKMAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 27, 2018

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Gen. Charles Brown Jr. became the 14th four-star general to lead Pacific Air Forces Thursday.

But Brown sounded more like a wide-eyed teenager than a battle-tested fighter pilot and leader during a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, where he assumed command shortly after being pinned with that fourth star.

“It is totally awesome to be here today,” he said to a large audience gathered under a cavernous hangar.

Recalling his first oath of office while an ROTC cadet, he said, “I never really believed I’d get this far. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d be standing here on the platform today, wearing a fourth star and taking command of PACAF.”

Brown replaces interim PACAF head Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, who is also commander of U.S. Forces Japan. Martinez put on the extra hat in April after PACAF Commander Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy became head of U.S. Northern Command.

Brown was commissioned in 1984 and received a master’s degree in aeronautical science in 1994. He has commanded a fighter squadron, the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and two fighter wings, including the 8th Fighter Wing, dubbed the “Wolf Pack,” at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

“In your new commander, PACAF has a joint airman who is recognized as one of the top team builders, warfighting experts, leaders, warriors – not only in the Air Force but in the entire U.S. military,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force vice chief of staff, told the airmen assembled at the ceremony. “That’s why he’s the right leader at the right time.”

Brown commanded U.S. air forces in Southwest Asia from 2015 to 2016 and for the past two years has been deputy commander of U.S. Central Command. In those roles, Wilson said, Brown “was the architect of the air war that decimated the Islamic State” in Iraq.

Brown now commands about 46,000 airmen and civilian personnel based primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam and South Korea. Roughly 320 fighter and attack aircraft are assigned to Pacific Air Forces, with another 100 aircraft rotating on deployments to Guam.

Adm. Philip Davidson, who took the helm of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in May, described some of the challenges facing Brown and his airmen.

“China continues to improve both the size and the capability of its armed forces and hopes to supplant the U.S. as the security partner of choice, not just in the Indo-Pacific, but across the globe – and on its terms,” Davidson said. “Russia continues to modernize its military in all domains and seeks explicitly to undermine the international order and U.S. security guarantees. North Korea remains our most immediate challenge.”

He said America’s Pacific “joint forces must find new ways to compete below the threshold of armed conflict” to dissuade revanchist powers such as China and Russia from “solving their disappointments through conflict.”

olson.wyatt@stripes.com

Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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