Capt. Mark Sohaney may seem like he lives a charmed life: having just left a post in Hawaii, as executive assistant to the director of maritime operations of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, he’s now been selected as commander of the Naval Air Station in Boca Chica. Like a true island-hopper, Sohaney likes to travel light, favoring flip-flops over formal Navy dress, and his whole family loves the sunshine (he also graduated magna cum laude from sunny San Diego University). Sohaney and his wife, Zina, have been married for 27 years and have two children: Madison, 21, a senior at Lynn University in Boca Raton and Ethan, 18, who will be a freshman at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona.
“We have a very big, very close family,” Sohaney said, “and in the big picture, my whole family considers Florida home.” His parents live in Port Orange, and he calls himself “blessed and fortunate” that his kids chose colleges in the state. His military family remains close by, too — retiring Commander Captain Bobby Baker’s son already attends flight school at Embry-Riddle. “They are going to kind of hook up, and he’ll show Ethan the ropes,” he said. So, not only do Baker and Sohaney have over 3,000 logged flight hours in common, their sons also follow in their footsteps … in the sky.
Sohaney is also already accustomed to some of the charms and challenges of the tight-knit Key West community.
“Literally on day one, I was introduced to most of the community leadership, and it was clear that bond was so crucial not only for the city and county, but the base as well,” he said. What’s the number one concern, managing a work force here? “I think what’s difficult is hiring people: the cost of living, the cost of housing, and it affects all of us in the whole base.” Despite the difficulty of turnover in such a small, expensive outpost, Sohaney sees the benefit of our idyllic little town. “It’s the close proximity and the size that makes it so unique. It’s great for me, as a family person, to be in an environment where I can effect change.” Zina, too, is accustomed to effecting change, having worked in real estate and education in Hawaii. She took on classroom challenges at one of the poorest schools in the area, and is excited to engage with the Lower Keys community on new endeavors.
But before we start asking the Sohaneys to join our clubs and causes, hopefully they can settle in and enjoy their new island home. Sohaney still marvels at his luck at being stationed in the Southernmost City.
“In the Navy, when you screen for a major command, you get 16 bases, and we put Key West as number one.” He and Zina didn’t anticipate getting their first selection, but “Lo and behold, they selected me,” he laughed, “and it was hard for me to come off Cloud Nine.” Well, the good news is, when you’re a jet pilot, you can visit Cloud Nine whenever you like.
Full Name? Nickname? Mark David Sohaney; ‘Soho.’
Did you always know you wanted to fly jets in the military? Yes.
Do you have a life credo or motto? Family First.
What’s the difference between Key West and your last place of assignment, Hawaii? Key West has great fishing, and Hawaii has great surf.
What’s on your bucket list? A trip to Italy.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Good health and great friendships.
What is it that you most dislike? Shoes other than flip-flops.
Which TV, movie or super hero character is your alter ego? Indiana Jones.
What is the best part of working for the Navy? The people.
What are three things you could not live without? The ocean, coffee and my cell phone.
If invisible in Key West what would you do? Spend a night in the Truman Little White House.
On what occasion do you lie? None.
Favorite guilty pleasure? Good whiskey.
What talent would you secretly love to have? Gourmet chef.
What advice would you go back and give yourself when you first joined the Navy? Call your parents more often.
Lunch with one famous person, who would you choose? Jonathan Goldsmith.
Finish these sentences..
My friends and family would describe me as … talkative.
My autobiography would be titled … Uncharted Waters.
I can never refuse … a good piece of chocolate cake.
When I go, I will go … Satisfied.