ARLINGTON, VA. — The U.S. Army appointed Lawton businessman Michael B. Brown as a new Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) during an investiture ceremony Wednesday at the Pentagon.
Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy selected Brown to represent the southern part of Oklahoma. There are currently two CASAs for the northern part of Oklahoma, Kevin Offel and Jill Castillo, both from the Oklahoma City area, as well as a CASA Emeritus, former Lawton resident Gilbert C. “Gib” Gibson, who lives in Oklahoma City.
Brown spent his early life in Atlanta, but his family moved back to Oklahoma in 1976. He attended four years of high school in Chickasha and four years of college at Oklahoma State University. He worked on the college newspaper for two years and earned a degree in advertising and public relations from the OSU journalism school.
“I figured out that I liked the construction business a little better,” Brown said.
Brown moved to Lawton in 1985 to work in a branch office of his family’s construction company out of Chickasha, Char-Don Builders. In 1991, he founded CDBL and today serves as owner/president. The company name derives from “Char-Don Builders of Lawton,” and Char-Don comes from the names of his late parents, Charlotte and Don.
“Now that they’ve both passed on, it’s neat that they’re still part of the name of the construction company,” he said.
Brown served two terms on the Lawton City Council and one as mayor pro tempore. He has two children: daughter Kaitlan Brown, an OSU grad now working for an Italian clothing company in New York; and son, Spencer Brown, a Cameron University sophomore and baseball player.
“They were there for the CASA induction, so that was awesome,” he said. “Kaitlan’s boyfriend was there, too. We got to go into the Secretary of the Army’s office, and he talked to the new CASAs, and my kids were in the room listening to him talk.”
Why did Brown choose to serve as a CASA?
“Well, for me, I’m not a previous server. I’ve never served in the military. So it’s an incredible honor to get to serve the Secretary of the Army in a significant way like this. It’s something that is just a huge opportunity to serve,” Brown said.
“We had an orientation at the induction. But a lot of what they expect and would like for you to be doing, you’ve already been doing. That’s why you were selected, because of connectivity to people that can help with all types of Army causes.
“Right now it’s recruiting. One of the biggest obstacles that we’re looking at in the Army is recruiting. So they certainly made a big point of that to us CASAs. There were seven of us. That’s the most they’ve ever inducted at one time.”
As what the Army calls a key influencer, influencing young people to sign up for military service depends on his connectivity to other people who are key influencers. The list would include mayors, the governor and other people in leadership situations, either from universities, colleges or any other type of educational institution where recruiters and candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can connect.
“And so our job is to try and help connect those dots so that folks who have a propensity to be of service or have that kind of attitude, then we can get our Army folks in touch with those folks,” Brown said.
In his walk of life, Brown is already heavily involved in things specific to Fort Sill, such as his involvement in the Fires Patriots, a lobbying organization that visits Capitol Hill each March and October to push the Lawton-Fort Sill message. He also is on the Lawton-Fort Sill Working Group to maintain the civilian community’s connection with the post leadership on bringing Fort Sill’s needs to fruition.
“One of the bigger things I’m looking forward to doing is continuing to learn,” Brown said. “I want to be a sponge. I want to learn as much as I can.
“The other is helping soldiers and their families. And young folks. We have an opportunity in our country to attract our younger generation to serve in our military, and so I’m excited to help some of those who may be on the fence, and to help motivate our younger folks to look at a life of service in our Army.”
CASAs are a vital part of the Army, promoting good relations between the Army and the public and advising the Secretary about regional issues.
Each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have one or more CASAs appointed to provide a vital link between the Army and the communities for which they serve. CASAs are usually business or civic leaders who possess a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and their communities.
CASAs serve a two-year term without compensation. Terms may be extended to a total of 10 years of service. The secretary may recognize a civilian aide as a CASA Emeritus after 10 years of service with distinguished service.