Rear Adm. Sohl assumes command of NAWCWD

Rear Adm. Sohl assumes command of NAWCWDCHINA LAKE — Rear Adm. Paul A. Sohl assumed command of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division during a ceremony held at China Lake on Aug. 20.

“To the men and women of the Weapons Division, you can’t possibly imagine how excited I am to have the humble honor and special privilege to lead with you and lead with the larger communities of Kern and Ventura counties,” said Sohl.

“Your long history of accomplishments and service to our warfighter has been and will continue to be critical to the accomplishment of the warfighter mission around the world.”

About 200 attended the ceremony held in McLean Lab. Hundreds more WD employees watched via video teleconference at various sites across the command.

Sohl introduced Vice Adm. David Architzel, commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, as the guest speaker and thanked him for his “personal attention” to NAWCWD.

Prior to the ceremony, Architzel frocked Sohl to his current rank. “It’s a great recognition and a great responsibility as well,” Architzel said. “Our Navy and the nation are counting on you.”

Architzel praised the capabilities of NAWCWD and its newest commander for his leadership skills and commitment to community.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Paul is the right person to lead this organization and guide the next generation of new technologies,” said Architzel.

“The … combination of technical talent and operational expertise at this command is quite frankly unparalleled. You have the great fortune of leading this group forward.”

Architzel reported that Sohl’s leadership philosophy centers on courage, compassion and character.

“He has proven over and over again that he is committed to nurturing an environment of trust and respect, and he has a track record to prove it.”

In addition to leading NAWCWD, Sohl will also serve as NAVAIR’s assistant commander for Test and Evaluation (AIR-5.0).

In his first remarks as a new flag officer, Sohl thanked past NAVAIR and NAWCWD leadership as well as those who continue to serve.

He gave special acknowledgment to Capt. Harry Dunbrack, who has doubled up as both commander and vice commander for the last two months.

Dunbrack, who was a test pilot school classmate of Sohl’s, will leave here in September.

“Harry’s added more value to WD’s mission execution than you will ever know,” said Sohl.

He highlighted the relationships between NAWCWD and the host stations, government leaders, communities and local educational systems.

“Those partnerships are critical to helping us perform our mission,” he said.

He also acknowledged the support from his wife and children. “Kids, the people from China Lake, Point Mugu and San Nicolas Island that you will meet today and in the coming months are some of the smartest, hardest working, mission-focused folks on the planet,” he told his children.

Prior to assuming command, Sohl toured NAWCWD labs and facilities and met with young engineers and scientists.

“I get energy from you just listening to your passion for the mission,” he said.

Sohl closed his remarks by sharing a letter printed on the back of a Wounded Warrior card that he carries with him everywhere.

He said he wanted to give those in attendance “a turbo boost” for why NAWCWD supports warfighters. “They are in harm’s way for us. I can think of no more noble a cause.”

Sohl, the 39th naval officer to lead NAWCWD, was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from Rock Island High School, Rock Island, Ill., in May 1981.

After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Tech-nology in June 1985 with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, he continued his education at Stanford University, receiving an M.S. in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in June 1986.

After commissioning through the Navy ROTC program, Sohl attended flight training in Pensacola, Fla., and Beeville, Texas, earning his wings in August 1988.

Later that year he reported to VFA-125 in Lemoore for training in the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter, with a subsequent assignment to the Stingers of VFA-113.

While in VFA-113, he deployed to the Western Pacific on USS Independence (CV-62) during Operation Desert Shield.

Sohl graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Md., in 1993, then reported to the Weapons Test Squadron at China Lake, Calif., where he worked on numerous F/A-18C operational flight program upgrade projects. During this assignment he was selected as an aerospace engineering duty officer.

His first assignment as an AEDO was to the Naval Aviation Depot in North Island, Calif., where he worked as the deputy program manager for the F/A-18 program.

In August 1998 he reported to the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office in Crystal City, Va., first as the executive assistant to the director, then as a member of the JSF Source Selection Team.

He returned to the test pilot school as executive officer in August 2001 and assumed command there in April 2003.

In January 2005 he reported to the staff of Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, for eight months and volunteered for a six-month tour in Afghanistan. Upon his return to Pax River, he was assigned as the government flight test director of the new presidential helicopter, VH-71A.

In 2007 Sohl reported as the executive officer of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla., and assumed command of the aircraft maintenance, overhaul and repair facility in 2009. He effectively led a workforce of 4,600 military, civilian and contract personnel until July 2011, when he departed for California to command the Naval Test Wing Pacific.

Sohl has logged more than 3,200 flight hours in more than 30 types of aircraft.

His decorations include the Legion of Merit Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Navy Commendation Medal.

Story First Published: 2012-08-29