Maj Panuk Paul Soomsawasdi
August 7, 2002
Maj Panuk Paul Soomsawasdi was one of three Combat Controllers who died while on a training mission as the result of the crash of a MC-130H in Puerto Rico on August 7, 2002.
Major Paul Soomsawasdi was born on 1 June 1966 in Thonburi, Thailand. He moved to the United States at the age of 2 and grew up in Ahoskie and Windsor, North Carolina.
He attended Pitt Community College, shortly after graduating high school in 1984, and then ultimately graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1992. He was a very active member of the ROTC program.
Major Soomsawasdi was commissioned in the United States Air Force in 1992. His first duty assignment was at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California in the Acquisitions field. From 1993 to 1996, Major Soomsawasdi competed in a reserve officer military pentathlon competition involving European military allies in the reserve officer ranks. During this same competition, he was the top U.S. finisher and was awarded the Rookie of The Year for his pentathlon team. Also that same year, his three-man team won distinct honors along with United States military participate in the International Military competition in South America, an event equivalent to the Olympics. His natural athletic ability, tremendous work ethic, and mental toughness were the qualities that made him a perfect choice to become a Combat Controller.
In 1995, he cross-trained into the Combat Control field as a Special Tactics Officer and following the completion of this arduous qualification training, he was assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron, Royal Air Force Base, Mildenhall, England from 1996 to 1999 as a flight team leader.
He was then assigned to the 23d Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida from 1999 to 2001 as a Special Tactics Flight Commander. During this assignment, Major Soomsawasdi skillfully prepared his flight for combat through realistic training. Following his time with the teams, Major Soomsawasdi was assigned as Special Tactics Liaison Officer, Naval Air Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico from 2001 to 2002 where his son, Eli was born 3 August 2001.
Major Soomsawasdi's awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal with two devices, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Air Force Achievement Medal with one device.