WD has indelible mark on departing commander

Even in shortened tour, Adm. Sohl and the Navy workforce leave lasting impression on each other

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

WD has indelible mark on departing commanderAs top military and civilian officials bid farewell to Rear Adm. Paul Sohl, whose tour at China Lake as commander of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division was cut short by orders that are taking him to Patuxent River, Md., the common thread in comments from each of his well-wishers were an acknowledgement of Sohl’s remarkable ability to connect to individuals and build a collaborative spirit in a time of deep economic uncertainty.

“Rear Adm. Paul Sohl was the right commander for the times,” said Scott O’Neil, executive director of NAWCWD.

“He is a consummate professional and a great leader who is interested in each and every one of his employees. During the time of planning for the furlough, Rear Adm. Sohl went the extra distance to communicate with our team to keep them informed and to try to minimize the impact at work.

“Our people might not like the fact that our government decided to use furlough as a means to reduce cost, but at least they can feel confident that their leadership tried to minimize its effects.”

Sohl, who will be reporting for dual roles as head of Fleet Readiness Centers and assistant commander for Naval Air Systems Command’s Logistics and Industrial Oper-ations, said he carries with him a profound impression and a first-hand account of the impact Weapons Division has on the Navy and the Department of Defense.

He said that although he loved his tour at China Lake and Point Mugu, he is administering to himself the advice he gives to young officers: there is no telling how your new command will shape and prepare you for how you are destined to serve in the future.

“This was a great 12 months. I was fortunate to develop a stupendous group of friends and relationships during that time.”

Sohl characterized the WD workforce as a whole as a class of “classic, quiet overachievers. All we have to do is create an environment where their imaginations can run free, and they will come up with solutions for us.”

He said he was particularly impressed by the young engineers and scientists he was able to interact with.

“We are truly at an inflection point with diminishing resources,” he said. With those challenges in mind, sometimes you need to look outside of the box for creative solutions.

“These young people don’t have the burden of my 27 years experience that we sometimes let handcuff our thinking. And if we tap into that, if we can foster those ideas instead of squashing them, we will find a better way of doing things. That is what innovation is all about,” said Sohl.

“That could reshape the Navy. And it is going to be such a blast to look back in 10 years and see the fingerprints of WD all over everything we do — in ways we never even thought possible. That’s what excites me.”

Sohl is now a part of the leadership constellation that bring to hold a personal understanding of the work of WD, and how critical those contributions are to national defense.

“The first comment you hear from almost everyone who comes to WD, and certainly everyone I met with, is ‘I just never knew what went on here.’

“So you can hear all the briefs in the world. But when you make that emotional connection that comes with getting a first-hand glimpse of the mission — like I had, like Adm. Winter had, like Adm. Dunaway had, and like Adm. Moran will have — you get a feel for the significance of those contributions and you can’t help but bring that with you and deploy that information in your next assignment,” said Sohl.

“When you look at what is happening today, you can see how the fingerprints of WD are on everything we do. And when you have someone who has an understanding of the WD capabilities, you can instantly leverage that knowledge and experience in other areas. I think that makes for a very powerful organization.”

Sohl also acknowledged that, like many of his predecessors, he maintains a connection to the local mission in his new role and anticipates that will bring him back to China Lake and Point Mugu in the future.

“You have not seen the last of me yet!”

Story First Published: 2013-08-07