Bringing Together the Laboratory and the Fleet

China Lake Military Leadership History

China Lake's military leadership has not been limited to its commanders over its 60+ years--the Navy and Marine Corps officers, the Chiefs, and the enlisted members have all made significant contributions to the success of the Lake's RDT&E programs--but by Navy law and tradition, the entire responsibility for the Command rests squarely upon the shoulders of one man: "The Skipper."

Taking the helm at China Lake has been a unique and sometimes frustrating challenge for the men who've done so--it's been described as "stepping into the 'Twilight Zone'" by more than one of those who came from the Fleet to the desert to serve as Commander of a mixed bag of military members, overseer of thousands of civilian scientists and specialists, custodian of over a million acres af land and hundreds of high-tech facilities, and de facto mayor of a small city.

There was the challenge, too, of forming a productive, synergistic partnership with the civilian leader, the Technical Director. The relationship between the Commander and the Technical Director--between the operational and technical communities--is a most essential aspect of the laboratory's institutional and emotional health. Some CO-TD partnerships were better than others, and many were amazingly good. For the most part, the military-civilian/Fleet-laboratory team formed by Captain Burroughs and Dr. Thompson has endured war, peace, and reorganization to stand as a foundation upon which China Lake's successes were built.




img "Ev" Burroughs was one of those most responsible for "The China Lake Way"

img "P. D." Stroop championed Sidewinder as Chief of the Bureau of Naval Weapons

img Dick Ashworth, Weaponeer on the Nagasaki drop, was first to "market" NOTS

img Bill Moran's combat experience prompted the development of Shrike

img Will Haff led the early '80s revitalization of NWC's RDT&E program

img Jim "Spurt" Seaman championed the China Lake Museum and dealt with the effects of "9-11"


China Lake's Commanders have generally been combat-seasoned aviators, and by and large members of the attack community; most have been Naval Academy graduates with an education in the sciences and engineering. Several Commanders had previous tours at China Lake in the Experimental/Technical Officer's group.

Capt. Sherman E. Burroughs [RAdm.]** 12-20-43 8-18-45
Capt. James B. Sykes [RAdm.] 8-18-45 11-5-47
RAdm. W.G. Switzer 11-5-47 9-23-49
Capt. Walter V.R. Vieweg [RAdm.] 9-23-49 10-31-52
Capt. Paul D. Stroop [VAdm.] 10-31-52 8-28-53
Capt. R.H. Solier 8-28-53 9-20-53
Capt. David B. Young 9-20-53 6-30-55
Capt. Robert F. Sellars 7-1-55 8-12-55
Capt. Frederick L. Ashworth [VAdm.] 8-12-55 9-6-57
Capt. William W. Hollister 9-6-57 6-1-61
Capt. Charles Blenman, Jr. 6-1-61 6-30-64
Capt. Leon Grabowsky 6-30-64 8-4-64
Capt. John I. Hardy 8-4-64 2-28-67
Capt. Grady H. Lowe 2-28-67 9-15-67
Capt. Melvin R. Etheridge 9-15-67 10-22-70
RAdm. William J. Moran [VAdm.] 10-22-70 10-18-72
RAdm. Henry Suerstedt, Jr. 10-18-72 5-30-73
RAdm. Paul E. Pugh 5-30-73 6-27-74
RAdm. Rowland G. Freeman III 6-27-74 5-26-77
Capt. Frederick H.M. Kinley 5-26-77 9-12-77
RAdm. William L. Harris 9-12-77 6-29-79
Capt. William B. Haff 6-29-79 6-30-81
Capt. John Jude Lahr 6-30-81 6-21-83
Capt. Kenneth A. Dickerson 6-21-83 6-27-86
Capt. John W. Patterson 6-27-86 8-13-86
Capt. John A. Burt 8-13-86 8-7-89
Capt. Douglas W. Cook 8-7-89 1-22-92

On 22 January 1992, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division was created from NWC China Lake and three T&E activities; base- and military-support functions were consolidated in the Naval Air Weapons Station subcommand.


Commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
RAdm. W.E. Newman 1-22-92 12-14-93
RAdm. Dana B. McKinney 12-14-93 7-25-96
RAdm. Jack V. Chenevey [RAdm.] 7-25-96 8-12-97
RAdm. Rand H. Fisher [RAdm.] 8-12-97 1-27-99
RDML Charles H. Johnston [RAdm.]*** 1-27-99 9-13-01
RDML Michael C. Bachmann [RAdm.] 9-13-01 1-30-03
RDML David Venlet 1-30-03 9-6-04
RDML Mark Skinner 9-6-04 9-07
RDML David Dunaway 9-07 1-09
CAPT Mark Storch 1-09 5-10
RDML Mat Winter 5-10 to present

Commanding Officer, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
Capt. Billy J. Craig 1-22-92 8-12-93
Capt. Charles A. Stevenson 8-12-93 7-25-96
Capt. Stanley W. Douglass 7-25-96 6-11-98
Capt. John D. Langford, Jr. 6-11-98 7-28-00
Capt. James R. Seaman, Jr. 7-28-00 3-6-02
Capt. Alexander B. Hnarakis 3-6-02 4-5-04
Capt. Mark G. Storch 4-5-04 4-06
Capt. Michael "Mick" Gleason 4-06 4-08
Capt. Gary "Norm" Peterson 4-08 10-09
Capt. Jeffrey Dodson 10-09 to present

*Designation officially changed from Commanding Officer to Commander 13 October 1948.
**Later/final ranks in brackets throughout.
***The designator for Rear Admiral (Lower Half) was officially changed in May 1998 to RDML.