Major General Ben Harrison was a key player in many of the pivotal decisions which shaped Army Aviation in more than 30 years. It was his influential voice, in retirement, which made the difference in the Army's decision to create an Aviation Branch.
Earlier, in 1978, he conducted a comprehensive Review of Officer Education and Training (ROET) for the Army Chief of Staff which highlighted significant aviation personnel management problems. This early spadework provided a major part of the justification for the decision to form an Aviation Branch.
General Harrison's service qualified him uniquely to provide sound guidance at key points in the history of Army Aviation. He enlisted in the Army in 1946 at age 17 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry through ROTC in 1951. He graduated from flight school in 1958 at the top of his class, and was also first in his class at instrument school.
In Vietnam, Harrison commanded the 10th Aviation Battalion during 1966-67. The battalion's combat operations reflected his training emphasis in night operations and instrument flying. Following tours in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development, he returned to Vietnam in 1970 as the commander of the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, conducting operations in the Khe San and Ashau Valley areas.
He was the senior advisor to two preeminent divisions of the Vietnam Army in planning and conducting operations into Laos. His combat decorations include two Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Soldiers Medal. He has flown over 7,000 hours, with 1,842 in combat. After the Vietnam War, Harrison directed the TRICAP testing at Fort Hood which resulted in the formation of the 6th Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat). He then served successively as Deputy Commandant of the Command and General Staff College and Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Aviation Center.
An extremely effective soldier, thinker, and educator, his mark on Army Aviation is indelible.