The Vermont Air National Guard has a new general, from right here in our area.
Colonel Henry U. Harder Jr. of Shelburne was promoted to the rank of brigadier general at the Air Guard base at a July 30 ceremony
Harder is a command pilot with over 3,000 hours of military flying, the majority in the F-16 fighter jet. His flying time includes over 330 hours of combat time in four separate tours in operations in and over Iraq.
He lives in Shelburne with his wife, Natalie Borrok Harder. They have three children, Haley, 21, Henry, 19, and Charlie, 16.
“This is exciting,” Harder said. “I’m humbled and honored by this promotion. As a young fighter pilot in the 1990s, my goals were to serve this great country and the Green Mountain State, and of course to fly fighter jets. I did not even contemplate someday being promoted to general officer.”
Harder grew up in Greenwich, Conn., and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1989 after graduating from the University of Vermont. He attended undergraduate pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. He served within the 134th Fighter Squadron in multiple positions including flight training instructor, wing plans officer, chief of safety, operations plans officer, squadron chief of scheduling and flight commander.
He is currently the vice commander, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, overseeing the Fighter Wing Staff, Manpower and Budget Programs for the Wing and assigned organizations within.
Harder is a second-generation fighter pilot, as his father and two uncles were all World War II combat fighter pilots.
“I was always intrigued with aviation as a young child,” he said, adding that his father often chartered a single-engine plane as a civilian, then owned a six-seat Piper Malibu.
Harder said he will work directly for Vermont Air Guard Adj. General Greg Knight along with Brig. General Steve Lambrecht, who is Knight’s chief of staff.
“I will advocate for training resources, funding and equipment to keep the Air Guard on the cutting edge,” Harder said.
As for his new rank, Harder is still getting used to introducing himself as “General”.
“What an amazing ride this had been,” he said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for me and I’m just honored and privileged to wear the uniform and help the men and woman of the Air Guard do the heavy lifting.”
Harder acknowledged past mentors who have helped shape his career, including Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Dubie, Maj Gen (Ret.) Steve Cray, Brig Gen (Ret.) Richard Harris, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Dave Baczewski, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Joel Clark, Brig. Gen. Craig Campbell, Col. (Ret.) Phil Murdock, Col (Ret.) Brian Dubie and the late Brig. Gen. Mike Heston (Vermont Army National Guard).
As the Guard prepares to receive the first two controversial F-35 fighter jets next month (see story, page 5), Harder said it is his job to help the Air Guard brass make the transition.
“My goals are pretty simple,” Harder said. “To help our Adjutant General, BG Greg Knight, and the dedicated staff of the Vermont Air and Army National Guard be prepared 24/7 to meet the call of our nation and the state of Vermont. The question is not IF our nation or state will call, it is when. Our airmen and soldiers (and their families) need to be ready. I hope to play a small part in keeping us ready when that call comes.”
Excerpts from an interview with Vermont Guard Public Affairs Officer 2nd Lt. Chelsea Clark were included in this story.