Book Gail Harris

Highest Ranking African American Woman in the US Navy

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Gail Harris Bio

Growing up Gail Harris spent the school year in Newark, New Jersey and summers in Andalusia, Alabama. At the age of 5 she watched a WWII themed movie called Wing and a Prayer starring Don Ameche. Mesmerized by a scene of the actor briefing Navy pilots before the climatic Battle of Midway scene, she decided that was what she’d do when she grew up. Unaware of the existence of a federal law which prohibited women from going into combat, one that would not be changed until 1994 she forged ahead with her dream. In 1973 Captain Gail Harris, United States Navy (Retired) broke a 200-year-old tradition becoming the first woman in Naval History to serve as an Intelligence Officer in a Navy combat job 20 years before federal laws changed making it a common occurrence.She was the first female or first African American for every job assignment and was frequently hand selected for challenging jobs based on her outstanding performance. In August 1988, she was pulled from her Hawaiian assignment 18 months early and sent to South Korea to head up the Defense Department intelligence support for the 1988 Olympics; a task that involved extensive coordination with U.S. and South Korean military, intelligence and civil agencies. She was also hand selected by the Director of Naval Intelligence and Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to till an interim position as Acting Naval Attaché, Egypt, thereby becoming the first female to serve as a military attaché in a Middle Eastern Country.From April 196 – August 1999, she was assigned to United States Strategic Command where she was handpicked to fill a new position of Deputy Joint Intelligence Center Commander (military equivalent of a news organization publishing books, magazine and newspaper articles and developing televised news spots). Of note, she was again requested by name to assist United States Central Command’s Desert Fox Operation. Her organization provided support for 415 air launched cruise missile strikes versus 100 Iraqi targets. In support of U.S. European Command’s Allied Force operations, her organization provided support for 300+ targets. These efforts were much praised by European Command and called “masterful” by the Joint Staff.At her retirement in December 2001 she was the highest ranking African American female in the Navy. Her 28 year career in intelligence included hands-on leadership during every major conflict from the Cold War to El Salvador to Desert Storm to Kosovo and at the forefront of one of the Department of Defense’s newest challenges, Cyber Warfare. Since her retirement she has worked in the Defense Industry as an Intelligence Subject Matter Expert, written blogs for the Foreign Policy Association and Lima Charlie News, hosted a weekly R&B radio show on KDUR, is writing a Broadway musical, and is an in-demand speaker. Her book A Woman’s War was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for 2010 by the Foreign Policy Association.She was a Senior Fellow George Washington Center For Cyber and Homeland Security (2015 – 2017 Class). Since September 2019, she has been studying music at Julliard.Commenting on her career, Captain Harris stated: “I am honored that my ceiling became the next generation’s floor”.Contact a speaker booking agent to check availability on Gail Harris and other top speakers and celebrities.

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