HomeNewsArticle Display

Female AF pioneer laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, presents the American Flag to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mareclite Harris’s daughter, Tenecia Harris, during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Gen. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the commander of U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, presents the American Flag to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mareclite Harris’s daughter, Tenecia Harris, during a full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Gen. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Friends and family of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris attend her full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. Harris’s accomplishments include being the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She also served as a White House social aide during the Carter administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard performs full military honors during the funeral of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

A caisson delivers the remains of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris during her full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

A caisson delivers the remains of retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Harris during her full honors funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Feb. 7, 2019. In 1991, Harris became the first African-American women to earn the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Marcelite Jordan Harris was laid to rest Feb. 7, 2019, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, with full military funeral honors.

During Harris’s life and Air Force career, she accomplished multiple crowning achievements. After receiving her commission through Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in 1965, she ventured into her first assignment as the assistant director for administration for the 60th Airlift Wing at Travis AFB, California. She then completed a tour in West Germany in 1971 before enrolling in the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Chanute AFB, Illinois. After graduating, she was named aircraft maintenance officer — the first woman to ever hold the title.

“Being a leader, being a mentor is not about how much you can fill your own cup, it’s about how much you pour into others and with Major General Harris, our cups run over,” said Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris, Inspector General of the Air Force. “She poured so much of herself, personally and professional, into all of us and influenced so many — those she knew and those who knew her from afar.”

Through hard work and dedication, Harris continued to pave the way for females and women of color in the military. While she served at assignments in Thailand, California, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Kansas, Japan, Mississippi and Oklahoma, she continued to rise through the ranks. During those assignments, she was appointed as a White House aide during the presidential administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1975, and she was the second female in history to serve as a commanding officer for an Air Force cadet squadron in 1978. In 1988, she became the first female wing commander.

Harris continued to break barriers – on May 1, 1991, she was promoted to brigadier general – making her the first African-American female general in the U.S. Air Force. A mere four years later, on May 25, 1995, she was promoted to major general, and was the first woman to hold this rank in the service.

“Harris was the personification of enduring power…she had the ability to withstand challenges and changes that came with being the first…the first woman, the first forerunner, the pioneer for females in male dominated career fields,” said Lt. Col. Ruth Segres, chaplain. “In the midst of opposition and obstacles she exhibited a power, a mental steadfast strength and a fierce fortitude to keep her composure — a credit to her character.”

After 32 years of service, Harris retired in 1997 as the highest ranking female in the U.S. Air Force and highest ranking African-American female in the Department of Defense. She continued her legacy of service by aiding as the treasurer of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP and a director on the board of Peachtree Hope Charter School. In 2010, she was given the chance to once again serve with her Air Force family when President Barack Obama appointed her to work as a member of the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“My sister was a fighter,” said Elizabeth Johnson, Harris’s younger sister during the memorial service. “She was forever striving to serve others, and even in retirement she never missed an opportunity to contribute.”

Harris passed away Sept. 7, 2018, at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, on a Caribbean vacation with her companion, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Branch. Though her death was sudden and unexpected, she was surrounded by loved ones.

Engage

Twitter
RT @AFSOUTH: #AFSOUTH vice commander, Brig. Gen. Sean Choquette, co-piloted a @FuerzaAereaCol AH-60L Arpia helicopter today as part of exer…
Twitter
Department of the Air Force announces mandatory COVID vaccine implementation guidelines for Airmen, Guardians. https://t.co/Arfo5d4yOe
Twitter
An @AFTestCenter engineer used his expertise in building drones to develop a system that brings the Benefield Anech… https://t.co/DKBVA8Isqa
Twitter
As technology swiftly evolves, so do #USAF cyber Airmen. Cyber leaders have embraced @GenCQBrownJr's vision of ac… https://t.co/cLaxcdvAeq
Twitter
The @AusAirForce joined forces with U.S. #Airmen to participate in RED FLAG-Alaska 21-3 at @EielsonAirForce, Alaska… https://t.co/lEHHU5OAst
Twitter
The 71st Rescue Squadron from Moody AFB, Georgia, became the first HC-130J Combat King II operational unit to recei… https://t.co/6OgC5aKwyu
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Secretary Kendall’s message to #Airmen & #Guardians leading into #LaborDay weekend: “I want to thank you, and those who…
Twitter
#AirForce & @IAF_MCC signed a landmark agreement to co-develop Air-Launched UAVs under the U.S.-India Defense Techn… https://t.co/B8sHX92G7N
Twitter
Capt. Joseph Scerra, an F-15C Eagle pilot, is the first 159th FW pilot to complete a sortie w/ the F-35A. The miles… https://t.co/HCi9TnGn5S
Twitter
The 92nd Medical Group at @TeamFairchild, Washington, honed their skills during a week-long readiness exercise. Dir… https://t.co/RDEqLsy2hJ
Twitter
The Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting Directorate @RobinsAFB_GA hosted the First Look Program workshop. The… https://t.co/uhYMqYR5d5
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones launched her official Twitter account last week! Follow @UnderSecAF
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: #OTD we celebrate the official end of #WWII and the anniversary of the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender abo…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Actions meeting words: In his confirmation hearing, SecAF Kendall said: “Our military is people first and foremost.” Y…
Twitter
Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General, visited the Center for Sustainment of Trauma & Readiness Sk… https://t.co/Pv571RpgaW
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: SecAF's message to #Airmen on their extraordinary efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens & others from #Afghanistan: "You off…
Twitter
The @39thAirBaseWing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, reaches a milestone with its Agile Combat Employment program.… https://t.co/u4ucRL8duB
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: “We achieve deterrence by having a strong enough force that the potential enemy is afraid of us. That’s my job; to give…
Twitter
Airmen from Moody AFB, Georgia, conducted training near @SLDelta45 to prepare for operations supporting #SpaceX and… https://t.co/iBAAGOnsVn
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,372,395
Follow Us