Citizen Airman leaves mark as African-American female aviator|
2/17/2012 - FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Heritage and horizons are among Air Force hallmarks, and Brig. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, currently the Air Force's highest ranking black female aviator, said she is proud to play a part in both.
As a Citizen Airman in the Air Force Reserve, Harris continues to leave her mark in the military and civilian sectors. Not only was she the first black female to command an operational flying wing in the Air Force, but she's also a commercial airline pilot flying routes to Asia and the Middle East.
Currently, Harris is the mobilization assistant to the commander, U.S. Africa Command, based in the command's liaison office in the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.
Her forward thinking skills and technical savvy developed from a humble but diverse history. Harris said her love of country and service began early as an "Air Force brat" traveling the world with her father, an enlisted technical sergeant and her mother, a banker. The Los Angeles, Calif., native explained that her wanderlust was the result of extensive childhood travel and relocations to include the United States, Japan, England and beyond.
"It doesn't feel rootless, it was just what I was used to," Harris said. "Traveling is my passion and has allowed me to meet so many people and learn the ways of various cultures."
Despite frequent moves and constant new schools, Harris returned to her birthplace and entered the Air Force through the University of Southern California's Reserve Officer Training Corps where she received her commission.
She learned about and soon became an enthusiast of a group of individuals who would change the course of her life and guide her career.
She said she was only casually familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen and their contributions to the Air Force when a fellow officer alerted her to a Tuskegee Airmen conference in New York in 1983 - a few months later, she was off to pilot training.
"To meet the Tuskegee Airmen -- people who paved the way for diversity -- was just a phenomenal inspiration," Harris said. "I remember thinking 'I will not let them down' because they worked so hard to integrate the Air Force so that any participating man or woman can achieve the goals they want - which is really civil rights."
Harris explained her philosophy of servant leadership style allowed her to appreciate all talent and walks of life. Despite the fact that she carved her niche in history, she said she sees her responsibility as more than simply being "the first" based on race or gender.
"Every day I wake up I'm a black woman, so I couldn't let that alone be what brought significance to the wing and being in a leadership position," Harris said. "I believe in taking care of people, and they will in turn take care of the mission, take care of each other and take care of you."
Harris provides policy representation on behalf of U.S. Africa Command's positions on issues related to the African continent, in response to Secretary of Defense and JCS taskings.