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Idaho native commands ‘The President’s Wing’

Associated Press

BOISE – A southwest Idaho native has been promoted to a job that makes him responsible for flying and maintaining the planes that carry the president, vice president and other top U.S. officials.

Col. Steven Harrison on Friday assumed command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Force Base outside Washington, D.C.

The 43-year-old Harrison grew up in Emmett and is an Air Force Academy graduate and Rhodes Scholar.

“I don’t know if there’s any more important role in a democracy than to support, protect and safely transport the people’s elected leaders,” Harrison said.

Harrison attended Emmett High School, where he was an all-state defensive back, student body president and valedictorian.

He graduated first in his class at flight school at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi in 1992, but that didn’t lead to his goal of training as a jet pilot.

“It was during a down time when they were reducing the number of fighters,” Harrison said. “I was one of only a couple of classes that didn’t have any fighters.”

The 89th Airlift Wing is also known as “The President’s Wing.” It includes the Boeing 747s with presidential markings commonly known as Air Force One. But any plane on which the president is a passenger is called Air Force One.

“I’m just a new leader of the organization,” said Harrison, who will manage about 1,100 people. “The people who do the real work are on the flight line, day in and day out. I’m just here for support and direction.”

Before taking his new post, Harrison was the leader of the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., where fallen soldiers are brought from overseas.

“It’s at one time both inspiring and heartbreaking,” Harrison said. “It’s heartbreaking to know what their families are going through as you bring them home. It is inspiring the extent to which the military goes for the family of a service member lost in combat. There is no other country in the world that goes to so much trouble and effort to make sure these fallen heroes are returned with dignity, honor and respect.”

Harrison was assigned to Dover in May 2007 after a two-year stint as vice commander of the 437th Wing at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.

“He’s had quite an impressive life,” said Harrison’s dad, Basil Harrison, a former Emmett business owner. “We’re so proud of him. He’s such a down-to-earth kid. He’s had so many honors, so many achievements, but he can talk to anyone on their level.”

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