Listen to My Exclusive Interview with
Captain Gail Harris
Author: A Woman’s War
All throughout history women have to fight for their place in the world. They have to go beyond the typical expectations that they’re meant for the home only. They need to stress their rights to suffrage, equal opportunities in the workforce, and better laws to protect them from abusers. In the process, however, the women become a lot tougher, more independent, and more goal centric than ever. To prove this point, one has to simply look at the life and achievements of Gail Harris.
Gail Harris’s early life may sound quite typical. She was born in New Jersey and grew up in one of its inner cities. She lived along with her two siblings and her parents, James and Lena. She took up political science in 1971.
Things took a different turn, however, when, in 1973, she decided to join the navy and enroll in Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island. Things then happened very fast as far as her career in the navy went. In the same year, she was became the first African American and female navy to work as an aviation squadron intelligence officer. After three years, she made another history when she worked as an intelligence watch specialist for a surveillance facility fleet in Japan.
She then began her illustrious teaching career in 1979 in Colorado’s Lowry Air Force Base and developed modules and courses in the process.
In over 20 years in the service, she wore a lot of hats, including leading two war games, commanding air reconnaissance teams in Spain, facilitating the crisis center during the war in the Persian Gulf, and working for the intelligence division of the National Department of Defense for the 1988 Olympics. While she was assigned in crisis operations in the Middle East, she was also working as the country’s female attaché for the navy in Egypt—another first in her long list of accomplishments. Her intensive knowledge in cyber warfare allowed her to help create the framework for the Defense Department’s cyber intelligence guidelines.
She had earned 3 commendation medals, 2 Sea Service deployment ribbons, 2 service medals from the National Defense, and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia liberation medals. But definitely the title of being the first female captain in the US Navy eclipsed the rest.
In her memoir entitled A Woman’s War, she chronicled not only her comprehensive career in the defense department, specifically the navy, but also her own personal struggles as she battled not only sexism but also racism. Many did question her participation and even her mere existence in a male-dominated world.
But Harris believed in the wise words of Winston Churchill: never give up. So even if she has retired, she doesn’t rest and continues to prove she deserves everything she has attained, even more so than her male counterparts.
After 2001, she worked for Lockheed Martin and wrote two other books, such as Lies and Limericks: Inspirations from Ireland. She works with different organizations like Intelligence and National Security Alliance, and teaches topics like diversity and cyberwarfare.