First Woman to Command a Combat Brigade Retires

brown retires

By Debbie Gregory.

Gender equality has become a hot issue in the military. Women have demonstrated that their gender does not affect their ability to perform. And for more than 35 years, Army Maj. Gen. Heidi V. Brown has served as a role model throughout her history-making military career.

A major influence throughout Brown’s life was her father, William Brown. A field artillery officer, William Brown served in both World War II and the Korean War before retiring as a major. In fact, it was while serving in Germany that William met his wife Virginia, who worked with Special Services. After his retirement, William Brown moved his wife and six children to El Paso, Texas.

The close proximity to Fort Bliss would increase the military influence that surrounded Heidi Brown through her childhood.

In 2003, Brown commanded Fort Bliss’ 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade, becoming the first woman to command a brigade in combat. During this mission, Brown’s father died. Although he had been diagnosed with colon cancer, he optimistically told his daughter, “I will live to see you take command.” William arrived in an ambulance at the ceremony the day Brown accepted command of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

Brown said that whenever she got an opportunity during her career, she made the most of it. It all added up to a career full of firsts and ground-breaking moments.

On April 1, 2017, at the age of 57, Brown officially retired. She had hoped to continue her service with one more assignment, but she had reached her mandatory retirement date based on time in her current rank.

Brown plans to spend the first phase of her retirement overseeing a major renovation of her lakefront home. She is also planning to write a book called “From Bliss to Baghdad” that details her time in Iraq.

Brown credits her success in the military not to her gender, but to her ability to lead and command other soldiers.

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