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Michael Harrington- Military-Veteran Distinguished Service Award

By Chrissy Natoli
May 8, 2024

Michael Harrington headshot

Michael Harrington ALM ’99 is the 2023 recipient of the HEAA Military-Veteran Distinguished Service Award. After growing up in a Military Family, Michael attended undergraduate studies at Norwich University; the Military College of Vermont as an Army ROTC Scholarship Student. He graduated in 1985 with a BA in History and as the Distinguished Military Graduate. Harrington was immediately commissioned as an Officer in the Army and placed on Active Duty in the Infantry. For nine years, served in various roles of increasing responsibility, ultimately reaching the rank of Major in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). During his time with the Special Forces and immediately following the 1st Persian Gulf War, Michael served as the logistics officer for a mission called Provide Comfort. To this day, Operation Provide Comfort remains the largest Humanitarian Intervention in world history. Their mission is to stabilize and repatriate hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqi Kurdish citizens so they can safely return home. This is the mission that led Harrington to the Harvard Extension School. In his present role as the Vice President of Risk Management for the Lockheed Martin Corporation with great honor continues to serve the American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Space Force team members around the Globe.

We spoke with Michael about his experience in the military, what inspires him to give back and MORE!

Q: Congratulations on winning the 2023 Military-Veteran Distinguished Service Award! What does it mean to you to achieve this honor?

A: This is perhaps one of the highest honors I believe I could receive from Harvard. To me, this award recognizes the importance of service to our country and our fellow man. Perhaps equally importantly, it also serves as a recognition of the difficult tasks of balancing a career, military deployments, a family with small children and an education all at the same time. I am truly humbled to receive this amazing recognition.

Harrington headshot

Q: How did your time at Harvard Extension School impact your achievements?

A: My time at Harvard and the things I learned have been central to my professional success. Values such as hard work, excellence in writing, critical thinking and creativity are all essential to a well-rounded Harvard Extension School experience and those values translate to success in life and in business. Following the 1st Gulf War and while serving as the Headquarters Company Commander for the 10th Special Forces Group (A) My Commander asked me if I wanted to attend the Harvard Extension School to further develop my skill set in Government. This led to some amazing assignments. During my time at Harvard, I was frequently deployed. In one particular deployment, the Pentagon sent me and a small team to Albania, Bulgaria and Hungary to assist the national governments in preparing for a potential Humanitarian Crisis arising out of the Balkan conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia. This sort of deployment meant that I had to work with my Harvard professors to creatively satisfy class requirements and in some cases defer classes to later semesters. I used the skills I learned in my Government classes to help prepare national governments for Humanitarian operations. This is a source of enormous pride in my life.

Q: Why is the work you do so powerful?

Harrington military photo

A: The work I do now as the Vice President of Risk Management for the Lockheed Martin Corporation is powerful because it supports American service persons and our allies around the world. I am passionate about this work because I was once one of those soldiers that relied on Lockheed Martin products. When I deployed to Iraq I did so in a C5A Galaxy aircraft, a Lockheed Martin product; When we were inserted for action in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey we flew in at night an MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, a Lockheed Martin product; When we searched for refugees in the mountains we did so in CH-53 helicopters, a Lockheed Martin Product; and in one unfortunate incident when our team ran into a large element of Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers we called in an F16 to help keep us safe, a Lockheed Martin product. I want each service member in the field today to have the support and security that Lockheed Martin provided to me and I am steadfastly committed to making sure that we protect our team members in the field as I was protected during my active-duty service.

Q: What broader impact do you envision making within your field?

A: I strive to always be a leader in my field of Risk Management. The risk management discipline has multiple facets but at its core it is all about solving difficult problems. In 2021 the Risk and Insurance Management Society, the trade association for all of Risk Management appointed me as the Risk Manager of the Year. This recognition involved nominations from insurance companies, insurance brokers, various other risk management disciplines but most importantly from my peer risk managers in various facets of industry, government, non-profit and other organizations. This is the highest honor one can receive in this particular field of work. My particular recognition was, among other things, associated with solving insurance problems for NASA and the Space Program. Insurers were seeking to back away from insuring crewed missions to the moon because they are inherently very high risk. By working with NASA and all of the Prime Contractors on the SLS/Orion space program I designed and implemented a comprehensive insurance structure that supported all members of the mission and that the insurance community was willing to support.

Q: What inspires you to continue to pave this path forward?

Michael at Kilimanjaro

A: The single most important thing that inspires me is to serve our fellow man and in particular military service members in the field today. This motivates me to make a positive and important difference each and every day.

Q: What brings you joy?

My family brings me joy. My wife, my 3 children and 2 step children are the center of my life. I also have 3 cats and a dog that make me happy every day. Beyond family I love to be in the outdoors to experience and embrace all of the wonderful things nature has to offer.