Asbury United Methodist Church, Cinnaminson, NJ
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Asbury Veteran: Randy Soderholm

Navy Veteran


Randy Soderholm grew up in the foothills of the Adirondacks, in South Glens Falls, NY and went on to college at the University of Rochester, also in upstate New York.   He was awarded a 4 year NROTC scholarship, so he eased into his military experience at a private, co-ed university studying physics, math and education.  Graduating and being commissioned in May 1977 began his official Navy adventure.


Ensign Soderholm was assigned to flight training at NAS Pensacola, Florida as a Naval Flight Officer (not the pilot).  The second phase of his training was Long-Range Over-Water Navigation Training at Mather AFB in Sacramento, CA where he earned his wings of gold in January 1979.  After still more training: on aircraft systems for his aircrew duties, survival skills, and for his squadron ground job of Legal Officer; Randy finally got to his P-3 squadron, VP-19 at NAS Moffett Field, CA in October 1979.  The P-3 is the Navy’s submarine hunting aircraft.  Randy’s first crew duties were as NAVCOM (navigator and radio operator).  He also studied and learned all the sensor systems and the aircraft’s Sperry/Univac data computer, for his later duties as TACCO (Tactical Coordinator), conducting the crew operations while chasing submarines. 


While in the squadron Randy saw many places around the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  He went to Japan for two six-month deployments, and visited South Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand.  He spent a couple months in and out of Diego Garcia, a small island base in the middle of the Indian Ocean flying coordinated operations with carrier task forces.   From these missions he landed in Oman (near Saudi Arabia), Djibouti, Somalia (both in eastern Africa) and Mauritius (an island east of Madagascar).  Also during his three year tour in VP-19 he made several trips, over a 3 month period, to Adak, Alaska (half way out the Aleutian Island chain) for extended flight operations.  There were many occasions when Randy and his crew located and tracked Soviet submarines during Pacific and Indian Ocean flight operations.


In November 1982, Lieutenant Soderholm reported to the Naval Space Surveillance System (NAVSPASUR) in Dahlgren, VA (about an hour south of the Washington DC area).  By then he had gotten married and had an infant daughter and during the 3 year assignment had a son.  In this assignment he was working to track satellites, not submarines.  He also worked with NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and spent several training periods at the Cheyenne Mountain underground Command Center complex in his space operations subspecialty.  Space activity and manned flights have always been an interest of his and it was very satisfying to work in support of Navy space surveillance and the early space shuttle flights.


In November 1985 Randy left active duty, but continued his military career in the Naval Reserves.  He began in a billet augmenting NAVSPASUR doing exactly what he did at his last active duty command and over the years continued to earn promotions.  It worked out well for the Navy to have someone with 3 years full-time experience in space operations in his reserve assignments, and he loved being able to continue doing the work he so enjoyed.  In his weekday life he was busy with family life and three children, and worked for a company in the D.C. area that had support contracts for both the Navy and NASA.


In 1994 his marriage ended in divorce, but he continued his same job and stayed in the same town, Bowie, MD to be with his children as they grew.  His three children are grown, and he has two grandsons from his daughter and her husband in North Carolina.


In December 1999 Randy retired as a Commander (O-5) from the Naval Reserves.  He has always enjoyed seeing so much of the world and experiencing the camaraderie of the men and woman he served with over the years. 


It was through the reserves that he met Mary. She began drill weekends at the same command back when they both had spouses and families.  Since they had very different jobs they only crossed paths in command meetings and passing in the hallway.  Years of busy lives went by and they began to work on reserve weekends in watch centers that were near each other, so they passed each other more often.  Eventually they had a chance to get to know each other and became friends.  The rest is history, and they still are enjoying being “newlyweds” in their love for each other.


Randy is currently working part time, as he is dealing with a two decade, progressive, chronic dizziness that has become more distracting over the last 5 – 8 years.  He still loves to sing in the choir and praises God in whatever ways grace provides.