January 3, 2008 (by A1C Chase Skylar DeMayo) - After serving as the vice commander of four groups and 20 squadrons, including two fully operational F-22 squadrons and one of the most historic F-15C squadrons in the Air Force, he flew his final 1st Fighter Wing flight Jan. 4.
Col. Jeffrey Harrigian, 1st FW vice commander, prepares to fly his final sortie as an F-22A Raptor pilot here. Colonel Harrigian is leaving Langley to assume command of the 49th FW at Hollman AFB. [USAF photo by SSgt. Samuel Rogers]
Col. Jeffrey Harrigian began his journey to Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Jan. 5, where he will assume command of the 49th Fighter Wing, the third wing to receive Raptor squadrons following Langley and Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.
Before leaving, Colonel Harrigian reflected on his time at the 1st Fighter Wing and offered his optimism for the future.
Q. What have you learned about 1st FW Airmen while serving as the vice commander here?
A. The Airmen here are the complete package; professionals through and through, whether it's providing their expertise to the [area of responsibility] or generating sorties, there are none better!
Q. What lessons do you plan on taking with you to your next station?
A. The most important lesson involves the teamwork occurring every day. The daily communication between the different organizations here ensures the machine runs smoothly every day.
Q. How significant was it to be the vice commander during the arrival Langley's final Raptor?
A. Having been involved with the F-22 program for several years now, I was honored to be a part of the team that ultimately brought the F-22 to [full operational capability]. It truly was a team effort that the Air Force, our leaders and our nation ought to be proud of.
Q. In what ways will your experience with the F-22 benefit you at your new wing?
A. Having been around the program for several years now, I'm familiar with all the subsystems and terms associated with the Raptor. Additionally, having been the squadron commander at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., when we stood up the Raptor there, I understand the challenges involved. My goal will be to anticipate and communicate these challenges to our team so we can smoothly and efficiently transition to F-22 operations.
Q. You've also witnessed the F-15 stand down; what have you learned from the 71st Fighter Squadron and their ability to accomplish missions without the F-15 in the air?
A. My hat is off to the 71st team. They have remained motivated and energized during a difficult time. Their ability to stay focused on preparing for future missions is a testament to their professionalism.
Q. During your tenure here, you have watched hundreds of Airmen deploy and return on a constant flow. What have you learned from them and their missions abroad?
A. These folks are true heroes; they prepare, deploy and execute the mission with little fanfare. They display impressive humility in the accomplishment of a difficult mission. I highly recommend anyone who has a chance should spend some time talking with our folks who have been downrange; I guarantee you'll be impressed! Whether it's someone from services, security forces, an [explosive ordnance disposal] warrior, or someone from [civil engineering], please take the time to tell them thanks for a job well done.
Q. Since you pinned on second lieutenant in May 1985, you have flown more than six aircraft, received a Purple Heart, graduated with honors and served as an instructor pilot. What other significant events do you feel have led you to become a wing commander?
A. I've been fortunate to work for and with some great Americans. I've tried to capture as many lessons as possible from these folks to help in preparing me for this. From watching how my commander and our squadron reacted following the Khobar Tower bombing, to working through the challenges of maturing a new weapon system, I've been fortunate to be associated with some outstanding Airmen that have shaped my career.
Q. What advice would you give Airmen who are new to Langley?
A. First, enjoy yourself here - this area has so much to offer that you need to take advantage of it. Second, expect to be challenged, the 1 FW is on the leading edge and it will be busy, so bring your "A" game and be prepared to get the job done!