Gates County native earns rank of Brigadier General
By James Brabenec
FORT SILL, OK – For Brig. Gen. Richard Harrison the new stars on his uniform were a direct tie to his interest in serving others while he was growing up in Sunbury, North Carolina.
Harrison, the commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School, chief of ADA here, became a new general officer during a promotion and retreat ceremony June 2, on the Old Post Quadrangle here.
“As a young boy I attended St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church (where) the ushers wore a star badge on their uniform that had the word ‘usher’ engraved on it,” said Harrison, the deputy commanding general of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill. “I couldn’t wait to grow up and be old enough to wear that badge and that star that meant so much to me.”
The general’s inclusion into the Army’s top officer ranks was celebrated en masse by friends, families, community leaders, and co-workers, many of whom stayed after the ceremony to pay their respects to Harrison and his family.
“Today I’m excited to wear these stars on my uniform to continue leading and guiding others, and to show them the way,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, director of the Join Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office and of the Fires Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G3/5/7, served as the officiating officer.
Gainey put the promotion in perspective as he said Harrison began as one of about 4,000 second lieutenants who came on active duty, with a mere 30 of those young officers now reaching the pinnacle of being a general officer.
“Rich was never afraid of the tough jobs, and I think that’s what separated him and helped him continue to drive forward throughout his career,” said Gainey.
The major general also praised Harrison’s parents – Queen and Roger Harrison who attended the ceremony – for instilling morals, values, hard work, and ethics into their son.
Gainey then honored Harrison’s wife, Tyra, for the excellence she has achieved as the director of Academic Programs and Supports for the Richmond, Virginia, Public Schools.
“Together, you two have built a beautiful family,” said Gainey.
Meeting Harrison 10 years ago, Gainey said he likened the newly promoted officer to a blue-chip athlete with himself as the coach. That formed the basis for what continues as a mentoring influence on Harrison’s personal and professional development.
Gainey spoke of the nontraditional approach Harrison took to the general officer ranks, which began with his first command in a headquarters and headquarters support battery, after which Harrison commanded a line battery.
“He always felt he was doing things in the opposite direction of his peers,” said Gainey, who added he loved the confidence Harrison displayed as a battalion commander.
“But, what I’d really like to drive home is the Rich Harrison that I got to know over my time as a (brigade commander),” said Gainey. “The compassion and caring – the type of leader Soldiers wanted to follow no matter what, he set that example every day.”
Harkening back to Harrison’s alma mater, Elizabeth City State University, Gainey said Harrison is the first general officer from that university and will be a role model for the ROTC cadets who pass through that program.
As Gainey requested the promotion orders to be published, Michael Simmons, master of ceremonies, read from Headquarters, Human Resources Command Order No. 126-012. “The President of the United States has reposed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity, and abilities of Richard A. Harrison.”
Harrison then stepped before the formation along with his family to receive all the trappings that come with his new rank. His daughters, Aliyah and Alexa, along with his wife and father assisted with changing his rank insignias on his uniform shirt and jacket.
He then received the general officer’s belt from his mom.
He was also presented an Army-issued personal sidearm by Willie Carter, a close friend. The 9mm pistol with an enhanced finish bears a serial number beginning with G.O.
Harrison’s one-star flag was unfurled by ADA School Command Sgt. Maj. Randy Gray, and retired CSM Harold Lincoln, who had served with Harrison.
Repeating after Gainey, Harrison then reaffirmed the Oath of Office.
This was followed by the presentation of honors that included the playing of “Ruffles and Flourishes” by the 77th Army Band followed by the firing of cannons by B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery, the Salute Battery.
Harrison then addressed the assemblage saying he was “extremely humbled and overwhelmed about today.”
He said as an Army private attending basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in 1991, attaining general officer wasn’t something he dreamed about.
“It was a tough road but I’ve truly enjoyed every bit of it with my family here by my side,” he said.
Although the ceremony honored Harrison, he sought to make it about something bigger than himself.
“I believe it’s about all the people who have helped me and my family get to this point,” Harrison remarked.
Expressing his faith, Harrison said, “First and foremost, I want to thank God. Because without him leading and guiding me I would not be here today. I pray going forth I will continue to bring glory to him by helping others to achieve their goals.”
Harrison thanked Gainey for his mentorship and for making him a better commander and Soldier.
Speaking of the other numerous mentors who have touched his life Harrison said, “They taught me how to be an effective leader, helped me take care of my personal matters, and simply how to be a better father and husband.”
Harrison thanked his father for being the great provider to their family and for teaching him how to be a man.
“I know it must have been tough climbing into that 18-wheeler on Sunday nights and not coming home again until Friday or sometimes Saturday,” said Harrison. “I appreciate you doing what you did to make a better life for us. You taught me more than you know about hard work and personal sacrifices.”
Harrison then said of his mother: “She’s done more for me than any person on this Earth. Everything that is good in me I learned from her. She taught me how to care for others more than myself. She taught me to put God first and everything else would work itself out. She’s been an angel here on Earth for me.”
He then thanked his mother-in-law, “for loving me as your own son and for always being there for us no matter where we were in the world.”
Harrison then turned his words to the four very special people in his life.
“Tyra blessed me with two amazing daughters and one outstanding son. I’m so proud of you three. Thank you for today and for supporting me all these years. No matter where we are, I will always be there for you,” said Harrison.
To his sweetheart, Harrison said, “Thanks for loving me unconditionally. Without you by my side, today wouldn’t have been possible.”
Master Sgt. Charles Johnson of the ADA commandant’s office then presented Harrison with a ceremonial artillery canister representing the first round fired in Harrison’s honor as a general officer.
The ceremony concluded with Harrison standing at attention in the position of honor for the retreat ceremony.