Brigadier General Jerry D. Harris Jr., Commander, 56th Fighter Wing of Luke Air Force Base, Phoenix, Ariz. - AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

Brig. Gen. Jerry D. Harris Jr., Luke Air Force Base

Brigadier General Jerry D. Harris Jr. discusses how his position is equivalent to that of a CEO, the importance of Luke Air Force Base, the importance of servant leadership, and more.

Brigadier General Jerry D. Harris Jr.

Title: Commander, 56TH Fighter Wing
Company: Luke Air Force Base

Why is your position equivalent to that of a CEO?

I look at our stakeholders as being the American public and certainly our senators and our governor, our government, and the political leadership that we have. Our customers are the combat forces, because here at Luke we train F-16 pilots and F-16 crew chiefs and we deploy combat ready airmen; so it’s those warriors and the commander on the other end that use them in combat that are customers we try and service.

How important is Luke Air Force Base to the economic success of the West Valley?

It’s a growing and vibrant economy here. Luke’s impact is about $2 billion a year. I heard a lot of great stories about how the 2008 Super Bowl contributed $500 million to the West Valley. Luke does that four times a year, every year, so that’s a big part of it.

What will the economic impact be if Luke Air Force Base is selected as the F-35 training site?

Based on the mission that’s going on with 138 airplanes that are currently on the ramp, with the F-35 arriving here we won’t see a whole bunch of long-term impact. We expect the F-35, if selected here, is going to bring in some immediate upfront building, some new construction – which will help with the local labor – and some of the things that are going on buying material and such.

In your brief tenure at the base, what type of feedback have you received from the West Valley communities?

It’s been phenomenal support. I have been probably at 15 or 16 different bases and some of those consider themselves to be the best support. Yet right here in Arizona — which is my home, too, by the way — I truly see that we’ve never had better support. All government from the county and the state are very positive with what we do. They’re looking to have, as they would say in their words, managed growth around Luke, yet compatible with Luke and that works out very well. I see a long-term relationship still going.

You’ve been quoted as saying you’re a believer in servant leadership. Why do you believe it’s the right thing to do?

When we show an organizational chart, we always show the CEO or the commander right at the top. That’s the way it makes sense because everybody sees how it branches out and goes to the different divisions or squadrons or groups in the organization. The way I’ve employed that here is while that is the way we show our organizational chart, I explain it to everybody that my job is to keep the next level of commanders trained, motivated, and certainly have the supplies they need in people, equipment and money to get what they need done.

Vital Stats: General Harris

    • Graduated from Washington State University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering
    • Command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in F-16, T-37, T-38, Mig-29 and Mig-21 aircraft
    • Served as Chief of Strategy for 16th Air Force Commander and COMAIRSOUTH’s Crisis Action Group in Naples, Italy
    • Served as the Combined Air and Space Operations Center Battle Director for Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
    • Decorations include: Legion of Merit (2); Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service (3); and Air Medal (4)
    • Assistant Director of Operations, Plans, Requirements and Programs, Pacific Air Forces, Hickam AFB, Hawaii
    • Promoted to Brigadier General on Nov. 3, 2010

Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011