Adm. Harry Harris was born in Japan and reared in Crossville, Tennessee and Pensacola, 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, his first assignment was 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 1, 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 1, Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, the U.S. 6th Fleet, Striking and Support Forces NATO, and the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Harris served in every geographic combatant command region and participated in the following major operations: Achille Lauro terrorist hijacking incident, 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 and the U.S. roadmap monitor for the Mid-East Peace Process.
In October 2013, Harris was promoted to admiral and assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Harris assumed command of U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) May 27, 2015, the 24th commander since USPACOM was established Jan. 1, 1947.
Harris has logged 4,400 flight hours, including more than 400 combat hours, in maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft -- he is the first Navy flyer from this community to achieve 4-star rank. His personal decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (two awards), Defense Superior Service Medal (three awards), Legion of Merit (three awards), the Bronze Star (two awards), the Air Medal (one strike/flight), and the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award. He was awarded the Tong-il medal by the Republic of Korea in 2014 and the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Tentera) by the Republic of Singapore in 2017.
He received the Navy League’s Stephen Decatur Award, the CIA’s Agency Seal Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies Lifetime Achievement Award, the Who's Who in Asian American Communities Alliance Foundation Community Spirit Award, and the Asian American Government Executives Network Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to his retirement, Harris was the Navy’s “Gray Owl,” the NFO who had held this designation for the longest period, and the “Old Goat,” the longest-serving Naval Academy graduate still on active duty.