Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle officially assumed command of the Air Force Research Laboratory during an assumption of command ceremony at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Kenney Hall Auditorium June 18. (U.S. Air Force photo/Keith Lewis)

Air Force Research Laboratory welcomes new commander

Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle officially assumed command of the Air Force Research Laboratory during an assumption of command ceremony at the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Kenney Hall Auditorium June 18.

Pringle replaces Brig. Gen. Evan C. Dertien, who returns to Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command as the director of Air, Space and Cyberspace Operations. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander, Air Force Materiel Command, presided over the ceremony. Distinguished guests in attendance included U.S. Rep. Mike Turner and Joseph Zeis Jr., the senior advisor for aerospace and defense from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

During the live-streamed event, Bunch expressed his confidence in Pringle’s abilities, describing her as a “high-caliber leader” and commenting that, “she is exactly the right person to come in and lead the research laboratory right now.”

Bunch cited her “broad experience in a variety of career fields that play directly into what [the lab] does to transition technology out to the field.”

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Bunch explained that Pringle understands partnerships with academia, having taught at the Air Force Academy. She has worked in acquisition, strategic planning, budget analysis, foreign military sales and international affairs. Pringle served as a squadron commander, a vice commander, and she expertly led Joint Base San Antonio when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in 2017.

Bunch asserted that, “The research lab [addresses] its wartime mission every day” by developing technologies that provide Airmen with a decided advantage” on the battlefield.”

He noted that AFRL is currently at a key juncture as leaders implement the Air Force Science and Technology Strategy and realign processes to ensure “investments get the most bang for [their] buck.”

Bunch concluded by emphasizing the criticality and the importance of AFRL’s mission.

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

Bunch affirmed to the audience that Pringle is “a tremendous leader, a phenomenal Airman and a compassionate individual.”

“The mission of AFRL is extremely important to our nation’s future,” said Pringle. “I’m really looking forward to starting this journey and getting to know the team. Since the warfighter is counting on every one of us to lead, discover, develop and deliver … I look forward to learning about your goals and most importantly, helping you succeed.

“The great thing about having a virtual ceremony is that you get to have so many more family members participate,” she said after praising the AFRL employees who worked hard to execute the event.

Pringle noted that she and her husband are excited to return to the Buckeye state, saying she feels very blessed to rejoin the Wright-Patt family, especially after seeing how well the community came together amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the ceremony, Pringle described “taking the helm of this national treasure [as] “the honor of a lifetime.”

“I am incredibly humbled to serve AFRL and blown away by the opportunity to join such an impressive team!” she said.

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.

With a background in psychology and behavioral sciences, Pringle previously served as the chief of AFRL’s Warfighter Training Research Branch in Mesa, Arizona. She comes to Wright-Patterson AFB 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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