PATUXENT RIVER, MD — As a time-honored military tradition, the Change of Command ceremony transfers responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another.

Captain Michael Zarkowski assumed the mantle of Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Fleet Readiness Centers in a ceremony June 16 in U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Hangar 10 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS-PAX).

Former Commander and Rear Adm. Paul Sohl will be moving onto his next assignment as commander of the Operational Test and Evaluation Force in Norfolk, Virginia.

Soul has done a tremendous job leading and organizing the FRC and providing for the fleet during his time as Commanding Officer, said Vice Adm. Paul Grosklag, guest speaker.

“He would drop little pearls of wisdom and I picked up as many as I could carry, because I knew I would be able to use them later,” said Grosklags. “The reason this program has done so well is because of L.J.’s debriefing style. He has left a mark on this organization, and his legacy will live on long after he leaves.”

Not only does this ceremony signify a change in careers, it is also about family and friends, said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, air boss and guest speaker.

“It provides the opportunity to acknowledge those who have supported Sohl and Zarkowski as they have developed their careers,” said Shoemaker

After thanking Sohl’s and Zarkowski’s wives for their selfless service in supporting their husbands, Shoemaker spoke to their children.

“Kids, I know how proud your dads are of you, and I hope you feel the same way about the bright future they helped provide for you with their naval service,” said Shoemaker.

Sohl is a key member of the NAVAIR team, said Shoemaker.

“With your silver tongue ways and your style of debriefing, we will miss him around these parts,” said Shoemaker. “Zark, you are a proven leader and have had the opportunity to watch one of the greatest Jedi FRC masters. You are the perfect choice to continue building on Sohl’s legacy and you’ll put your personal touch on this program.”

Calling himself a simple Hornet pilot, Sohl thanked his family, friends, peers and the community for their support during his time as Commander.

“Zark, you’re the best vice commander I could have ever asked for. You’re a shining example of all three of the Cs that I ask of my peers: courage, compassion and character,” said Sohl.

With a quote from Mother Theresa, Sohl highlighted that no matter what, people should continue to do what is right.

“The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and other people anyway. Thank you all for being here. God bless you, the Navy Marine Corps Team, and the United States of America,” said Sohl.

Zarkowski thanked Sohl’s family for sharing him with the Navy, and hopes that they understand how important he is.

“L.J., Silver Tongue, our very favorite simple Hornet pilot, we are going to miss you. Seriously, you were the best boss ever. I am honored to continue to lead this extremely high performing command,” said Zarkowski.

Sohl led with style, said Zarkowski.

“You always did it with compassion and integrity. You were the right leader in the right place at the right time. I was fortunate to have you as my boss, but more importantly as my mentor and friend,” said Zarkowski.

Zarkowski then thanked his superiors, family, friends and peers for supporting him.

“FRC will continue to be the best it can be, and perform at the highest level. While we should be proud of what we have accomplished so far, I am anxious about the work that still needs to be done. I am extremely optimistic about what we will continue to do together,” said Zarkowski.

Zarkowski closed the ceremony with “The Man in the Arena,” an excerpt  of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship In A Republic.” 
“It is not not the man who points out how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” said Zarkowski. “May God bless the Naval Aviation family, and continue to bless the United States of America.”

Contact Jacqui Atkielski at