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Combat Art Articles

A Pioneering Aviator's Legacy of Service

  • Published

Gen Harris painting

lithograph      in the press

Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Darby Perrin
Medium: Oil on masonite
Date: 2020

Lt. Gen. Stayce Harris grew up knowing that she wanted to serve her country.  Her father Clyde served in the United States Air Force throughout her youth.  His example, as well as the frequent moves to new and exciting places, led Stayce to follow in his footsteps. 

Although she never set out to break barriers, she did just that many times throughout her career.  Inspired to become a pilot by a college instructor, General Harris decided that flying was her goal.  When difficulties arose during her training, she reflected on the sacrifices that the Tuskegee Airmen had made to provide her the opportunity to fly.  Lieutenant Harris earned her pilot’s wings in 1984 and would go on to complete over 2,500 hours flying C-141 Starlifter, C-130H Hercules, and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. 

In 2016, President Barack Obama nominated her to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant general.  Upon her promotion, Lieutenant General Harris became both the first African-American woman to hold the rank of lieutenant general in the Air Force and the highest ranking African-American woman in the history of the Air Force.  General Harris served as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director, Air Staff, from August 2016-November 2017 and as the Inspector General of the Air Force from November 2017 until her retirement on March 1, 2019.