OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) director of global operations, retired from active duty military service during a ceremony at the 557th Weather Wing auditorium, Feb. 24.
Brown is the first female combatant command operations director, and the first soldier to serve in the position at U.S. Strategic Command.
"Your understanding of the science and strategy of deterrence led my predecessor, [retired U.S. Navy] Adm. [Cecil D.] Haney, to hand-select you for your role here as director of global operations," said U.S. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, USSTRATCOM commander and the ceremony’s presiding officer. "You have taken on what I believe to be our greatest challenge as a warfighting command: integrating our strategic forces, worldwide, across multiple domains, at the combatant command responsible for the most powerful strategic assets the world has ever produced."
Hyten went on to highlight Brown’s other historic achievements during her 35-plus years of service to the nation.
"I want to remind this audience that you’ve earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to command and lead a brigade into combat; you became the first female general in the Air Defense Artillery Branch; and as of today, you hold the distinction of being the senior female combat arms officer in the Army," said Hyten. "You do leave a legacy, Heidi – as a supervisor, a combat arms officer, a strategic thinker – and I am here, as your commanding officer, to congratulate you on a career well-served."
Following his remarks, Hyten presented Brown with the Distinguished Service Medal for her exceptionally meritorious service as director of global operations, and the Air Force Aerial Achievement Medal for her meritorious achievements while participating in sustained aerial flight as an airborne emergency actions officer for the airborne command post mission.
Hyten then released Brown from active duty, effective April 1, and presented her with a certificate of retirement, signed by U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, U.S. Army chief of staff.
Brown received letters of appreciation on the occasion of her retirement from former President Barack Obama, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Hyten.
In absentia, Ricketts also bestowed Brown with the honorary title of Nebraska admiral.
After the presentations, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, Brown’s long-time mentor and friend, provided remarks and applauded the impact of Brown’s career.
"A marvelous career of firsts, built by Heidi’s courage to take on the toughest jobs," said Lennox. "Her determination to succeed and her selflessness to serve paved the way for a generation of leadership in the Air Defense Artillery branch and the U.S. Army."
Lennox then presented Brown the last 155mm artillery round of a thirteen-round salute battery that the 1st Infantry Division, Ft. Riley, Kan., fired during Operation Danger Focus II, Feb. 14, in honor of Brown’s service to the U.S. Army.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy W. Garcia, representing USSTRATCOM’s enlisted force, furled Brown’s personal colors before the USSTRATCOM joint color guard performed a flag folding ceremony and presentation.
Brown then delivered her remarks, acknowledging the leaders and mentors, particularly Lennox, who ignored gender bias and placed her in key command and staff positions based on her performance and potential.
"You always believed in me and provided me with opportunities not because I was a female soldier, but because I was a soldier," said Brown. "You, more than anyone I know, were gender neutral and color blind. I honestly believe that if you had not been the kind of leader you were and are, there would still be glass ceilings too numerous to count, even today."
Although Brown had originally planned to leave the Army after completing her initial service commitment, she "fell in love with being a soldier, and leading soldiers."
Reflecting back on her more than 35 years of service, Brown said, "I really have been blessed my entire career."
Brown concluded her remarks by declaring, "My name’s Brown, and I’m a soldier!"
One of nine DoD unified combatant commands, USSTRATCOM has global strategic missions assigned through the Unified Command Plan that include strategic deterrence; space operations; cyberspace operations; joint electronic warfare; global strike; missile defense; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and analysis and targeting.