by Senior Airman Kristof J. Rixmann
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Less than 24 hours after officially assuming command, U.S. Air Force Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, highlighted his key mission priorities for USAFE-AFAFRICA’s area of responsibility spanning 104 countries in three different continents on Ramstein Air Base, May 2.
Harrigian identified USAFE-AFAFRICA’s continued readiness, posture and partnerships as focal points in maintaining near-peer competitor deterrence and continued global peace.
“I’m primarily focused on our people,” said Harrigian. “It underpins everything we do and it’s really our greatest advantage. I think as you look at our people and the larger mission areas, it will come down to readiness and ensuring we have our force properly prepared.”
Exercise Operation Varsity, led by U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark August, 86th Airlift Wing commander, is one instance of the readiness Harrigian underlined. Throughout the duration of the exercise, service members and Department of Defense civilians responded to simulated events like aircraft mishaps, active shooters, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive attacks. Exercise Operation Varsity 01, the first in a series of readiness exercises held throughout the year on Ramstein, resulted in an entire year’s worth of inspections completed in a five-day period.
The second mission priority outlined by Harrigian is posture. Posture would mean ensuring USAFE-AFAFRICA is in a proper stance for any situation and is able to react with the speed that would be required, Harrigian said.
Continuing to build on partnerships across Europe and Africa was the third and final mission priority provided by Harrigian to maintain near-peer competitor deterrence and promote global peace.
“The third one, naturally, is our partnerships and how we continue to build the trust and confidence in them,” said Harrigian. “I’m a firm believer you can’t surge trust. It’s built over time and those partnerships, whether that’s building capacity or just the ability to have the access basing and overflight we need, are fundamental to our ability to execute the mission.”
Lessons learned at his prior assignment, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Force Air Component commander, translate well in his ability to carry out the mission priorities he’s outlined for USAFE-AFAFRICA moving forward.
“From a partnership perspective, I got to know a lot of the key senior leaders from many of the nations contributing to the efforts in (the Middle East),” said Harrigian. “It’s been very helpful for me to transfer those relationships as I came from Qatar back to Germany.”
In terms of partnerships, Harrigian recognizes occasional disagreements during communication but sees the value in having multiple different perspectives.
“My assessment is there is a recognition this part of the world is very dynamic right now,” said Harrigian. “There’s going to be times when we have different views, but that’s good. Everyone brings an important perspective to the table and having the ability to just get around the table and talk about it as partners with common interests is really helpful.”
In closing remarks, Harrigian expressed gratitude to USAFE-AFAFRICA Airmen and an eagerness to get started in his new position.
“I’m humbled to have this opportunity to be on their team,” said Harrigian. “I say that to our Airmen but also to all of our joint and partnered allied nations. This is a great opportunity to work with some very talented folks. The reputation of USAFE-AFAFRICA is truly spectacular when you look at the history of everything that’s been accomplished. For me and my wife to be a part of that is truly humbling. I’m eager to get started, fired up to get after it, and look forward to getting out and meeting as many folks as I can.”
In addition to his positions as commander for AFCENT and, currently, USAFE-AFAFRICA, Harrigian has commanded at the flight, squadron and wing levels.
Harrigian is also a command pilot and has accumulated more than 4,100 flight hours on aircraft ranging from the F-22, F-15C, A/OA-37 and MQ-1. During these 4,100 flight hours, Harrigian has flown combat missions in support of Desert Storm, Just Cause and Inherent Resolve.
Among many other major awards and decorations, Harrigian is a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient.