Colonel James C. Harding entered the Air Force in 1956 as a distinguished graduate of the Penn State University Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program where he was also selected as the outstanding Air Force ROTC cadet. His military career covered a variety of flying assignments as well as command positions. He served as squadron commander for a 400 person unit at Lackland AFB and as an A-1 combat squadron commander in Southeast Asia.

He is a command pilot with nearly 5,000 hours of military single-engine flying time, and a master parachutist with 69 jumps. Colonel Harding was shot down by a SA-7 Surface-To-Air Missile (SAM) while directing a rescue mission in Vietnam in 1972. United States Army helicopters rescued him after he successfully evaded North Vietnamese troops. While on the ground, Colonel Harding used his survival radio to direct the rescue of his wingman, who had also been shot down on the same rescue mission.

Upon retiring from active duty on July 31, 1979, Colonel Harding entered general aviation at Nueces County Airport, Robstown, Texas. In 1980, he turned his focus to the Air Force Junior ROTC program where he was instrumental in organizing and implementing programs in the continental United States as well as at Department of Defense schools overseas. He had two short breaks from the Junior ROTC program from 1985 to 1987 and 1990 to 1992 when he worked as an advisor to the Royal Saudi Air Force and developed a professional education program for Saudi Air Force officers. Colonel Harding retired from the Air Force Junior ROTC program in 1998 to take up tree farming in Bayview, TX. He moved his tree farming operation to Huntingdon, TN in 2001 and continued teaching as a substitute in Carroll County. He retired from teaching in 2009 to devote full attention to his family tree farm. He is an accomplished public speaker and has extensive writing experience. He is a lifetime member of 16 national service organizations.


1956 - Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Penn State University, PA.
1961 - Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, AL. Distinguished Graduate
1971 - Masters in Business Administration, Auburn University, AL.
1971 - Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB, AL. Distinguished Graduate
1975 - Industrial College of the Armed Forces, by correspondence
1977 - Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL. Distinguished Graduate


1956-1957 - Primary Pilot Training, Marana AB, AZ and Basic Pilot Training, Laredo AFB, TX
1957-1959 - T-33 and F-86 instrument instructor pilot, Moody AFB, GA.
1959-1961 - Squadron Commander, Base Training Officer, T-33 instructor pilot and member of the "War Hawks" aerial demonstration team, Lackland AFB, TX
1961-1963 - F-84 tactical fighter pilot and T-33 instructor pilot, MacDill AFB, FL.
1963-1967 - Plans Officer, 313th Air Division and the 0-1, U-10, T-33 Pacific Air Forces Standardization Evaluation Flight Examiner, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Of this time, he spent 2 1/2 years on temporary duty in Southeast Asia (SEA) as an air liaison officer/forward air controller (ALO/FAC) for allied forces. He flew 442 combat missions in the O-1 and U-10, 101 of which were over North Vietnam.
1967-1971 - Section Commander and Lecturer for Squadron Officer School, Maxwell AFB, AL. Also completed Air Command and Staff College and Auburn University Masters Degree (MBA) program.
1971-1972 – Commander, 1st Special Operations Squadron AHobos@ and ASandy’s,@ Nakon Phenom Royal Thai AB, Thailand. He flew 154 missions in the A-1 bringing his total combat missions to 596. 38 additional North Vietnam missions brought that total to 139, all in propeller aircraft.
1972-1973 - Chief of Operations and Training, 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, England AFB, LA.
1973-1976 - Chief of Officer Career Development, Headquarters Air Force Military Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, TX
1976-1978 - Student and Faculty, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL.
1978-1979 - Chief of Safety, 9th Air Force, Shaw AFB, SC.
1979-1980 - Corporation Vice-president, Director of Operations, Chief Flight Instructor and Chief Pilot for Coastal Bend Flying, Inc., Robstown, TX
1980-1981 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, FL-801, Homestead High School, FL (established a new unit)
1981-1982 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, FL-43, Vero Beach High School, FL
1982-1985 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, HI-821, Kailua High School, HI (established a new unit)
1985-1987 - Education, Training, Operations and Tactics consultant and analyst, Royal Saudi Air Force headquarters, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
1987-1989 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, GR-831, Department of Defense Dependent=s School System (DoDDS), Ramstein American High School, Ramstein AB, Germany.
1989-1990 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, TX-41, Harlingen High School, TX
1990-1992 - Base Manager during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, King Faisal AB, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia and Analyst, Royal Saudi Air Force headquarters, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
1992-1994 - Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, TX-922, Rivera High School, Brownsville, TX (established a new unit)
1994-1995 - Commandant, Air Force ROTC program, FL-35, Satellite High School, Satellite Beach, FL
1995-1998, Commandant, Air Force Junior ROTC program, IT-951, Aviano High School, Aviano Air Base, Italy (established a new unit)
1998-2000 - Owner/Operator Harding Groves, Bayview, TX
2000-Present - Owner/Operator Harding Tree Farm, Huntingdon, TN
2002-2009 - Substitute Teacher Huntingdon High School, TN


Rating: Command pilot, Master parachutist
Flight hours: Over 8,000 hours including civilian hours
Aircraft flown: T-33, F-86, F-84, O-1, U-10, A-1, A-7, various single and multiengine civilian propeller aircraft


Air Force Cross
Silver Star with 2 oak leaf clusters
Legion of Merit with 1 oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Flying Cross with 8 oak leaf clusters
Bronze Star with AV@ and 1 oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with 3 oak leaf clusters
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal with 39 oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal with 1 oak leaf cluster

Presidential Unit Citation with 4 oak leaf clusters
USAF Outstanding Unit Award with AV@ and 4 oak leaf clusters
Combat Readiness Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters
National Defense Service Medal
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with 8 bronze service stars
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Royal Thai Supreme Command Forward Badge 1st Class


1956 - Distinguished Military Graduate and outstanding Air Force ROTC cadet at Penn State University
1957 - Air Training Command Outstanding Instructor, Moody AFB, GA
1967 - Air Command and Staff College Distinguished Graduate
1968 - Air Force nominee in the Junior Chamber of Commerce "Ten Most Outstanding Young Men of the Year" competition
1969 - Air Force Outstanding Junior Officer
1977 - Distinguished Graduate and class president, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL
1983 - Windward Oahu Rotarian of the Year, Paul Harris Fellow
1987/8 - Air Force Junior ROTC Outstanding Instructor in Europe
1988/9 - Air Force Junior ROTC Outstanding Instructor in Europe
1995/8 - Air Force Junior ROTC Outstanding Instructor, Aviano AB Italy
1998 - Air Force Association Citation for outstanding achievement
Air Force Junior ROTC units GR-821 and TX-41 were "honor" units during his tours as commandant
Air Force Junior ROTC unit IT-951 was cited as a "model" AFJROTC unit
Federal Aviation Agency Certified Flight Instructor, instrument for single and multiengine aircraft


Second Lieutenant: 9 June 1956
First Lieutenant: 23 March 1958
Captain: 7 August 1962
Major: 8 December 1966
Lieutenant Colonel: 23 November 1971
Colonel: 26 October 1973
Current as of November 2010