Admiral Harry Harris was born in Japan and reared in Tennessee and Florida. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1978. Graduate education included Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, Oxford, and MIT's Seminar 21 fellowship.
Designated as a naval flight officer (NFO) in 1979, he was first assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 44. Subsequent operational tours included tactical action officer aboard USS Saratoga, operations officer in VP-4, three tours with Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing One, director of operations for U.S. 5th Fleet, and director of operations for U.S. Southern Command.
Harris commanded VP-46, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing One, Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, U.S. 6th Fleet, and Striking and Support Forces NATO. In 2013, he was promoted to admiral and assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He took command of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) May 27, 2015, the 24th commander since USPACOM was established in 1947.
Harris served in every geographic combatant command region and participated in the following major operations; S.S. Achille Lauro terrorist hijacking response, Attain Document III, Earnest Will, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Willing Spirit, and Odyssey Dawn.
Harris’ staff assignments included aide to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, speechwriter for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), three tours on the Navy staff; including Deputy CNO for Communication Networks (OPNAV N6), assistant to the CJCS where he was the chairman’s direct representative to the secretary of state with additional duties as the U.S. roadmap monitor for the Mid-East Peace Process.
Harris logged 4,400 flight hours, including over 400 combat hours, in maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft . He is the first Navy flyer from this community to achieve four-star rank. His personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, (two awards), Navy Distinguished Service Medal (three awards), Defense Superior Service Medal (three awards), Legions of Merit, Bronze Star (two awards), Air Medal (one strike/flight), and the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award. He has been decorated by the governments of France, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Philippines, and Singapore.
Harris received the CIA’s Agency Seal Medal, Navy League’s Stephen Decatur Award, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Lifetime Achievement Award, Who's Who in Asian American Communities Alliance Foundation Community Spirit Award, and the Asian American Government Executives Network Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the Navy’s “Gray Owl,” the NFO who has held this designation for the longest period, and the “Old Goat,” the longest-serving Naval Academy graduate still on active duty.