New commander takes helm at AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, has welcomed a new commander.

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle officially assumed command of AFRL in a ceremony at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Kenney Hall Auditorium Thursday, the base said.

Pringle replaces Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, who returns to the headquarters of Air Force Materiel Command as the director of Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations.

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In January, Gen. Arnold Bunch relieved former AFRL commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley from command due “to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, related to alleged misconduct which is currently under investigation,” the base said at the time.

Bunch determined that new leadership was necessary to ensure order, discipline and high performance within the organization, the base said in January.

Dertien, previously AFRL’s vice commander from July 2016 to May 2017, then succeeded Cooley.

Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, presided over Thursday’s ceremony. U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and Joseph Zeis Jr., senior advisor for aerospace and defense for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, were among those in attendance.

According to the base description of the change-of-command ceremony, Bunch expressed confidence in Pringle’s abilities, describing her as a “high-caliber leader” and saying “she is exactly the right person to come in and lead the research laboratory right now.”

Pringle has worked in acquisition, strategic planning, budget analysis, foreign military sales and international affairs, the base said. She has served as a squadron commander, a vice commander, and she led Joint Base San Antonio when Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in 2017.

AFRL develops technologies that airmen need on the battlefield.

“If the research lab is not working properly and not performing, then we as an Air Force cannot succeed,” Bunch said.

“The mission of AFRL is extremely important to our nation’s future,” Pringle said in her own remarks. “I’m really looking forward to starting this journey and getting to know the team.”

As the commander of AFRL, Pringle will lead a workforce of more than 10,000 airmen, civilians and contractors, and manage an annual budget of $6.3 billion.

Pringle is quite familiar with AFRL. With a background in psychology and behavioral sciences, she previously served as the chief of AFRL’s Warfighter Training Research Branch in Mesa, Arizona. She comes to Wright-Patterson after serving at the Pentagon as the director of strategic plans at Air Force headquarters and as the deputy chief of staff for plans and programs.

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