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Air Force Maj. Gen. Stayce D. Harris’s appointment to the rank of lieutenant general was also confirmed leading up to the Fourth of July.

Lt. Gen Harris will soon take up a new assignment as the assistant vice chief of staff and director of Air Staff at the U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

The general is no stranger to multitasking.

As a young lieutenant colonel in 1990, Harris changed from active duty to reserve status and began flying for United Airlines. She was the First Officer flying 747-400s to Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Back then; Harris was one of eight Black women pilots at United, and one of about only 20 in the industry.

But Harris hadn’t always set her sights on climbing sunward and chasing the shouting wind.

Growing up, she was planning to be an engineer or design aircraft, she told The Journal Record.

Her father, who had enlisted in the Air Force, and stories of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, inspired Harris.

After graduating from 71st High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1977, she earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from University of Southern California (USC), and her commission from USC’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program.

The Air Force was opening doors to women for pilot training scholarships, so Harris began flight training. Unfortunately during the last physical before going to Air Force pilot training she failed the eyesight test.

But the American Dream had come true in Southern California.

Harris opted to work as an industrial engineer and a squadron section commander. For a year and a half, she served as a line officer before completing another physical, where her eyes were 20/20. This time, the Unit Pilot Training Board accepted her.

“My greatest thrill was being able to solo the T-38 on my birthday,” she told Journal Record. “It doesn’t get much better. I loved that jet because it was like strapping a rocket on your body and taking off.”

Back then women were not allowed to fly fighters, so Harris chose the C-141s at Norton Air Force Base in California.

In 1987, she earned a masters degree in Aviation Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and served as an adjunct faculty member.

When Norton Air Force Base closed in 1991, Harris became a reservist at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., where she eventually commanded the 729th Airlift Squadron.
While on active duty, she was rated as a C-141 aircraft commander, and logged 2,500 hours in the C-141B.

As a civilian, she joined United Airlines and was a first officer on the Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

Harris made history in May 2002 when she became the first Black woman to serve as vice commander of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, a reserve component of the United States Air Force.

Lt. Gen. Harris recently served as commander, 22nd Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.

The Twenty-Second Air Force has command supervision of the Reserve’s tactical air mobility operations and other vital mission sets to include distinguished visitor airlift, undergraduate pilot training, flight test operations and a highly mobile civil engineering response force.

With more than 15,000 Reservists and 105 unit-equipped aircraft, 22nd Air Force contributes daily to the Air Force’s worldwide operational mission.

Reserve aircrews within 22nd Air Force fly a variety of missions to include aerial spraying, fire suppression, hurricane hunters to troop transport utilizing the C-130 Hercules.

She has commanded an airlift squadron, an expeditionary operations group, and an air refueling wing. In her civilian occupation, she is a commercial airline pilot flying routes to Asia and Europe. Prior to her current position, Gen. Harris served as the Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, Air Mobility Command, Scott AFB, Illinois.

Her staff assignments include serving as a mobility force planner for the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations and as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force.

The general has also attended senior executive courses including Senior Executives for National and International Security, Harvard University, Capstone General and Flag Officer Course, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., and the Fellow, Seminar XXI at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lt. Gen. Harris has been a member of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, the Organization of Black Airline Pilots, the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA+21), the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, the Tuskegee Airmen Inc., the Reserve Officers’ Association, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Santa Monica Museum of Flying.

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