Getting Personal: Liaison officer a Brit of all trades
August 9, 2006
Paul A. Harrison recently assumed the post of RAF Squadron Leader at RAF Lakenheath. The 39-year-old West Yorkshire native has served in a number of posts at installations that range from the Scottish Shetland Islands to Afghanistan. He now is the lead RAF commander at the largest U.S. Air Force installation in the U.K. He serves as the liaison officer to 48th Fighter Wing commander Gen. Robert P. Steel on all matters relating to the Ministry of Defence, RAF policy and U.S. visiting forces.
You’ve had a 21-year career that has taken you all over the world, but how did it all start?
I first joined the RAF in 1985 as a musician. I played the drums. I also served as flying paramedic for 11 years and traveled to almost every country in the world.
So what’s been your favorite country to visit?
It’s the way they make you feel welcomed and special.
When did you become an officer?
I first became an officer in 1996 and was then assigned to RAF Saxa Vord in the Shetland Islands.
That’s way up there in northern Scotland. What goes on up there?
It was a remote radar post from the Cold War days when we thought the Russians would come flying over the North Pole.
Have you ever served with Americans before?
I have worked with Americans in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, but never on a side-by-side manner.
What is your greatest challenge in this post?
Learning how you [organize] and construct your forces and learning the construct of the base.
RAF Lakenheath is home to the F-15E, which is a loud aircraft. How do you intend to handle the noise complaints that come in?
I hold monthly meetings with the local parish councils and I am the first point of contact for noise complaints. If they require a visit, I will go visit and explain how we fly.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a keen golfer.
Have you made it out on the Breckland Pines course yet?
No, but I have sussed it out.
Sussed? Is that a British slang term?
It is. It means to do reconnaissance or to check it out. I guess it’s what you call a colloquialism.
I have to ask, are you going to get to fly in an F-15?
The base has organized immersion training, and I will go and fly to look at the routes they use. It’s a great opportunity and a real bonus.