Pearland class of 1993 alum, Lt Col James Stahl will be assuming command of the 661 Aeronautical Systems Squadron in Waco, Tx and will be supervising a “Big Safari” unit responsible for the rapid acquisition and testing of urgent combat aircraft capabilities. Lt Col Stahl was born in Pearland, Texas to John and Lana Stahl, both long time educators in Pearland ISD and avid supporters of Pearland Oiler Basketball. As an honor student at Pearland, Lt Col Stahl was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and was also the captain of the basketball team. He has served his country honorably since 1993.
After graduating Pearland, Lt Col Stahl accepted an appointment to attend the United States Air Force Academy. He was commissioned in 1997 and graduated as a distinguished graduate with academic and athletic distinction. There he received a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a Mathematics minor and was chosen to immediately attend graduate school as the #1 Mechanical Engineering student in his major.
Lt Col Stahl’s first assignment was a student at the University of Texas at Austin where he received his Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in only one year’s time. Subsequently, Lt Col Stahl attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, TX and Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, TX where he flew the T-37 then T-44. His follow-on flying assignments included tours as an EC-130H pilot for the 42nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ and as a HC-130P pilot for the 71st Rescue Squadron Moody AFB, GA. As HC-130P aircraft commander, Lt Col Stahl flew combat sorties during two OEF deployments totaling just under 100 hours. He also served as OEF deployed operations officer leading 63 CSAR personnel in execution of personnel recovery efforts in Afghanistan and flew helicopter refueling missions that led to the rescue of over 100 people during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2006 Lt Col Stahl was selected to attend United States Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, CA. There he flew over 25 different aircraft to include fighters, tankers, helicopters, gliders, vintage, and foreign aircraft. After graduating test pilot school and receiving an additional Masters Degree in Flight Test Engineering, Lt Col Stahl was assigned to the 413th Flight Test Squadron, Hurlburt Field, FL. As assistant operations officer Lt Col Stahl led 140 military and civilian aircrew and engineers in test programs primarily supporting USSOCOM and AFSOC, the premier special operations agencies in the Department of Defense. Lt Col Stahl broadened his experience in the test community by accepting a position as the Director of Operations, 780th Test Squadron, Eglin AFB, FL. There he supervised developmental test in planning, execution, and reporting for over 184 munitions related programs within a $55M annual budget. Lt Col Stahl then served as Chief of the Doct rine, Concepts, and Wargames Branch at Air Force Special Operations Command Headquarters before returning as Director of Operations, 413th Flight Test Squadron. There he tested and delivered the next generation of Special Operations combat aircraft; the AC-130J Ghostrider II gunship and the MC-130J Commando Solo.
Lt Col Stahl has over 2400 flying hours in more than 30 aircraft. Of his many flying accolades, most notable is Lt Col Stahl’s historic achievement as the first pilot in history to fire a weaponized air-to-ground laser as part of the Advanced Tactical Laser Technology Demonstration. The historic shot, and his subsequent actions to save the aircraft and crew after a catastrophic laser explosion earned Lt Col Stahl a single sortie Air Medal; an honor usually reserved for 20 combat missions.
Although he has been on the move for over 20 years, Lt Col Stahl still calls Pearland his home. His enjoys meeting with his brothers John and Jeremy Stahl to cheer on Coach Buck and the Pearland Oiler basketball team.
Lieutenant Colonel Stahl is married to the former Miss Kimberly Griffis of Valdosta, Georgia; they have two children, daughters, London (5) and Presley (20 mos) who will be accompanying him during his command tour in Waco.