Stories of Service: Major Ian Brown
Major Ian Brown
I know of service members who lost access to health care and access to training opportunities, and others that don’t feel safe advocating for themselves.
Major Ian Brown, a career Army man, prides himself on his professionalism. “Performance and competency matter. Whether I’m a good soldier, battle buddy, friend – that’s what matters. The rest of it doesn’t matter one bit.”
His superiors, who are well aware that Brown is transgender, must heartily agree. Not only has Brown earned two Bronze Stars, two Meritorious Service Medals, and five Army Commendation Medals, he has been trusted to lead two Company Commands and to work in the Pentagon, down the hall from the Secretary of the Army. He’s seen battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is committed to the organization that he’s given his life to.
On July 26, 2017, Brown had no inkling of President Trump’s infamous tweet announcing a ban on transgender people serving in the military until he left the Pentagon at the end of the workday. “People were walking up to me, saying, are you okay? And, I’m so sorry.” Having given up his phone for the day (like all Pentagon workers) he’d missed the initial media storm.
The reactions of his colleagues echoed the support Brown had received from his entire chain of command since coming out to his immediate supervisor in 2016. “We took two laps around the 5 sides of the Pentagon talking it all through,” says Brown. “I got nothing but support and affirmation.”
Born and raised in Fort Worth, TX, where he spent time in foster care, Brown enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1998. He was attracted first by the structure and the discipline. “As I began to learn more, I grasped the opportunity for education, travel, and training. My feelings matured into patriotism.”
Brown enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1998 and joined active duty in 2003. He was commissioned as an Officer in the Signal Corps in 2007 and held positions as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer and Battalion Signal Officer before assuming command of a Strategic Signal Company in Okinawa Japan in 2014. On July 31st 2019 he assumed a second command of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company in the Army Cyber Command.
As a commissioned and decorated officer, Brown feels both empowered and obligated to speak out. “I know of service members who lost access to health care and access to training opportunities, and others that don’t feel safe advocating for themselves. They’re vulnerable.”
His concern isn’t limited to individual service members – he’s worried about the Army. “Tons of resources have been invested in the force and incredible talent will be lost among the active duty and reserve ranks. That loss is disruptive – not our identities.”
He adds, “Only 1% of the population serves. We desperately need service members. It makes no sense to tell an entire cross section of the population “you can’t serve” and discount a wealth of potential talent simply based on someone’s gender identity.”
Brown’s got a lot of good things going on – he just celebrated both his 39th birthday and his 5th anniversary with his partner. He has the respect of his superiors and his peers, and he will keep speaking out.
“I truly believe that visibility is important. I’ve got a certain amount of privilege, and I will use it. And I’m going to continue doing my job.”