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A homespun hero

Have you ever heard of Norma Elaine Brown? If you visit the Treasures of Madison County Museum on Range Avenue, her picture is displayed among dozens of other Madison County military personnel who served our great country. Like the others, she is dressed in her formal uniform, displaying pins and ribbons. However, unlike the rest, she is a woman. Not only is she a woman, but she was the first woman to command an Air Force wing when she assumed command of the 6940th Security Wing in Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. In addition, she was the second woman ever promoted to Major General. Major General Norma E. Brown was commander of the Chanute Technical Training Center, Chanute Air Force Base, Ill., the oldest major technical training center in Air Training Command. Before she achieved such high acclaim, Brown was a native of Lee, Fl. and was born in 1926. She attended Lee Elementary and High School, later attending and graduating from Madison High School in 1944. After graduation from Florida State University in 1949 she taught senior high school physical education in Lake City for two years before entering the Air Force through the officer candidate school program.

She was commissioned as a second lieutenant in December 1951. According to the U.S. Airforce’s records, her first military assignment was with Headquarters Flight Service, Washington, D.C., where she was Chief of Military Personnel from December 1951 until June 1954. She then became Chief of the Personal Affairs Division, Headquarters Northeast Air Command, St. Johns, Newfoundland. At the end of her two-year tour of duty, she transferred to the Dependents Assistance Program in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C. In December 1957 General Brown assumed command of the Women in the Air Force Squadron Section at Headquarters 1001st Air Base Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Md. She remained in that position until December 1961 when she was selected for an exchange tour with the Royal Air Force as a personnel staff officer with the Royal Air Force Technical Training Command headquarters, Brampton, England. In January of 1964, General Brown began a 13 year series of tours with the U.S. Air Force Security Service.

Her first assignment was at the headquarters at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, as Chief, Personnel Services Division, in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel. In July 1965 she was reassigned within the deputate as Chief, Career Development Division. During that assignment General Brown attended the professional personnel management course at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. From August 1967 to October 1968, General Brown was Chief of the Personnel Division at the 6987th Security Group, Shu Lin Kau Air Station, Taiwan. She returned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force Security Service at Kelly Air Force Base in November 1968 as Director of Personnel Programs and, in August 1969, was named Director of Personnel Plans. In September 1970 General Brown become Chief of the newly organized Consolidated Base Personnel Office for all units in the European Security Region. This regional arrangement was a first in the Security Service. In August 1972 she was selected to command the 6970th Air Base Group, Fort George G. Meade, Md. In December 1974 General Brown become the first woman to command an Air Force wing when she assumed command of the 6940th Security Wing, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.

General Brown became Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel (later Manpower and Personnel), for the Air Force Logistics Command in July 1977. She assumed her most current command, Commander of the Chanute Technical Training Center, Chanute Air Force Base, Ill., in April 1979. Brown’s military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and Army Commendation Medal. General Brown was promoted to Major General on Oct. 1, 1979, with date of rank Dec. 1, 1975. Major General Norma Elaine Brown is a homespun hero– straight from the hedges of Lee, Fl. Not only did Brown become a Major General, a highly commended position in the military, but she conquered major stereotypes and prejudices which were prevalent during the time frame in which she served. Now, that’s some history to teach your granddaughter!

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1. Photo Courtesy Of The State Archives Of Florida. Major General Norma Elaine Brown

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