By Jackie McGinnis, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
On May 27, Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. assumed the leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It is a job that Harris seemed destined to have.
Born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted father and Japanese mother, Harris was raised on a farm in Tennessee where he said he grew up with stories about WWII. His father and his four uncles all fought in the war.
“My dad and my uncles talked about WWII to the point when I knew that when my time came that I was going to have to serve in the military. That’s why I always said that WWII was the most important event in my life even though it happened long before I was born.”
Harris graduated from U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 and did postgraduate studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and Oxford University. He spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, which included three tours in Japan. Harris is undoubtedly familiar with the Asia-Pacific region.
“From Hollywood to Bollywood and from Polar Bears to Penguins” the U.S. Pacific Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) encompasses nearly half the Earth’s surface. From the North Pole to Antarctica, the AOR stretches from the west coasts of North America and South America, extends through the Pacific Ocean, and concludes in the Indian Ocean and the western border of India.
There are few regions as culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse as the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The region is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population and 3,000 different languages.
Harris says Americans should care about the Asia-Pacific ‘rebalance’ because of the wide range of opportunities in the region.
“I think the opportunities involve new ways in dealing with old problems. They involve partnerships and friendships with new countries.”
Harris also believes that there are opportunities with China.
“I think that we can find common ground and we should try to find common ground.We should work through global issues together rather than be at odds with each other.”
With that said, Harris says that we (Americans) have to be ready for any outcome from a position of strength. He says he looks through a lens darkly for a reason.“You don’t pay me to be the Pacific Commander because I’m an unrealistic optimist. I think you pay me to do this job because I’m a realist.”
With all the components of our national capacity focused on rebalance–economic, diplomatic, political, energy and the military–Harris says it’s easy for people to focus on the military because it’s the most visible. He wants Americans to look at the economic opportunities.
“The Indo-Asia Pacific clearly is the engine of our economy for the rest of the century.”
Harris believes this an exciting time for the military and that as the new Pacific Commander he can’t wait to get to know some of the men and women who will serve their first tour of duty in the Pacific along side of him.
“They’re entering military service at a time of great importance to our nation. At a time where we have brand new platforms, new ships, new air planes and opportunities for women. It’s an important time and we need the best that our country has to offer.”
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