In the past year, 1st Lt. Paul Stocklin, lead engineer for a system of the Wide Area Surveillance program here, has briefed generals and program executive officers on how WAS will defend the U.S.
Stocklin, recently named Air Force Life Cycle Management company grade officer of the quarter, is 25 years old. He works with users, providing a bridge between Airmen who operate surveillance systems, contractors building the system and combatant commanders charged with homeland defense.
“Wide area surveillance was handed to the Air Force to take from the research and development phase into a Program of Record, which is really a rare type of transition,” said Brett Johnson, Stocklin’s program manager. “Normally, someone in the lieutenant’s position would get all the items that come with a program that follows a normal acquisition path, like background engineering documents, progress reports, maybe some lessons learned. We’re building the plane as we’re flying it, and Paul is telling us how, from an engineering perspective.”
Stocklin, like his program, followed a non-traditional path to where he is now. As an undergraduate at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, he studied electrical engineering and avionics. One of his projects was enabling small drones to generate three-dimensional maps of indoor space, like sonar reconnaissance for exploring small, unknown spaces.
“Junior year of college I was visiting my advisor and I saw one of those posters with phone number pull tabs, and it was advertising an enlistment program where the Air Force would pay you to go to school, and then you’d commission after graduation,” said Stocklin.
The Air Force’s Technical Degree Sponsorship Program funds undergraduate degrees for those who enlist in college. Upon graduation, enlistees are eligible for commissioning as officers in their technical career fields, but aren’t required to participate in Reserve Officer Training Corps activities while in school.
“But, when I called the number, it was wrong,” said Stocklin. “I guess it could have ended right there, but I contacted a recruiter, who got me the right information.”
Stocklin’s program is at a crucial point, preparing for milestone C, which authorizes full rate production of the system and eventual fielding. WAS is an acquisition category 1-C program, meaning it is high-visibility, special interest. Getting the program to this point has earned Stocklin the recognition of the career field and his recent award.
“I feel respected on this team,” said Stocklin. “I know I’m lucky, to be at the rank I am, and to have an environment where people give me the opportunity to prove myself."