El Paso native to retire Maj. Gen. Brown to spend last day in uniform in El Paso
By Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Bugle Managing Editor:
(El Paso, Texas, Mar. 9, 2017) Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown, an Army trailblazer who grew up in El Paso, plans to spend the last day of her nearly 36-year career here when she speaks at the Women in Business Conference March 31.
“It’s really pretty special that the last time I will be in uniform will be in El Paso … It’s where I started and it’s the last place I’ll wear my uniform,” said Brown in a telephone interview March 1.
Most recently, Brown held the position of director of global operations of U.S. Strategic Command, one of nine Department of Defense unified commands, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Although her retirement ceremony was Feb. 24, her official last day in uniform is March 31.
A member of the second class that included women to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1981, Brown’s career is full of firsts.
To start, she was the first woman from El Paso to graduate from West Point. Then, here at Fort Bliss, she became the first woman to command a Patriot missile battalion, and as the commander of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, she was the first woman to command an air defense artillery brigade. As head of that brigade, she became the first woman to lead a U.S. Army brigade into combat during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Brown is also the first female general in the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Branch, the senior female combat arms officer in the Army, and the first female combatant command operations director.
After years of being the first woman in several roles, Brown became the first Soldier to serve as USSTRATCOM director of global operations. Brown took on the job in February 2015, after serving as Missile Defense Agency’s test director at Fort Belvoir, Md.
Brown also served as chief of staff and deputy commander at Fort Bliss; a battalion commander for the 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 32nd Army Air Defense Command; a Patriot battalion commander for the 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade; chief of staff and deputy commander of the Army’s Air Defense Center; assistant commandant of the Army’s Air Defense School at Fort Bliss; deputy commander for sustainment at Fort Lewis, Wash., and deputy commander for sustainment for the Multi National Corps-Iraq.
In retirement, Brown said she plans to move to Virginia and spend a year writing a book about her experiences in the military. Brown married in May 2014 and said she looks forward to living with her spouse, a DOD senior executive, and overseeing the renovation of their house.
In the meantime, however, she eagerly awaits visiting El Paso and Fort Bliss, where she spent nearly nine years of her career.
“I just think Fort Bliss and the El Paso community are awesome in terms of supporting the military,” Brown said. “I’ve never seen a city as pro military as El Paso. A lot of them think they are, but they’re not. They don’t compare, and Fort Bliss has everything. It’s a fantastic post. I always enjoyed being stationed there, of course.”
Brown said she included two quotes on her retirement ceremony program, and she plans to include those quotes in her speech here.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” from Eleanor Roosevelt, is one of them, Brown said, and the other, from Winston Churchill, reads: “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Brown said she envies Soldiers starting out in the Army.
“There are so many things to do and I think the technology is incredible, and for men and women, you be the one who determines your path,” Brown said. “Don’t let somebody tell you that you can’t do something because you’re a woman or because you’re a man, whatever it is, don’t take no for an answer. Pursue your own dreams.”
The conference, organized by the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce and El Paso SCORE, is from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 31 at the Wyndham Hotel. The cost is $75 for the general public, and $50 for military and spouses. It includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Other speakers include Kim Nelson, “Shark Tank” winner, and Aliana Apodaca, head of Positive Directions Co. in El Paso. Register at www.elpaso.org or call 629-6714.
Editor’s note: Maj. Gen. Brown is not related to the author of this story.
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