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Air Force 23rd Flying Training Squadron welcomes new commander

Col. Arthur Davis, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, hands the squadron colors to Lt. Col. Jerry Crigger, Jr. as he assumed command of the 23rd FTS during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 13. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Col. Arthur Davis, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, hands the squadron colors to Lt. Col. Jerry Crigger, Jr. as he assumed command of the 23rd FTS during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 13. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)

Published: June 19, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 19, 2014) -- Friends, Family and coworkers showed up in droves June 13 to welcome the new commander of the Air Force 23rd Flying Training Squadron.

Lt. Col. Jerry Crigger Jr. assumed command from Lt. Col. William Denehan Jr. during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Col. Arthur Davis, 58th Special Operations Wing commander, congratulated Crigger on his promotion to commander.

“The FTS is lucky to have (Crigger) taking the reins,” he said. “He has been the operations officer the last few years and he knows the people, the mission and, more importantly, my expectations. He is uniquely suited for this squadron with the temperament and experience to continue the proud tradition of the Nite Nailers. I have every confidence in you.”

Crigger is a senior pilot with over 2,600 hours in the UH-1H/N, MI-17 and TH-1H.

“(Denehan) has left the squadron in a great place, so it is easy for me to kick my feet up, but that’s not my personality,” he said. “I will continue to push myself into new dimensions and I will continue to learn new things about myself. And that is what I expect out of the squadron. We need to see what new limits we can reach and what we can leave out on the field. Continue to finish hard.”

He then thanked Denehan for many years of mentorship and friendship.

“(Denehan), over the last 10 years it has been great knowing you. I appreciate everything you have taught me. A lot has changed over the years, but I still appreciate all of your guidance,” he said.

He added it is awesome to be taking command of the training squadron because all helicopter pilots in the Air Force come through “Mother Rucker.”

“To have an opportunity to lead the squadron beside the Army is a great thing. It is essential for the different military branches to work together to achieve the mission,” he said. “We can no longer operate by ourselves, and it is so important that, from their first steps in military service, Soldiers be exposed to working with other branches so everyone can operate better when it comes down to going to war together.”

In his remarks, Davis congratulated Denehan on his exceptional time as commander.

“The FTS has been fortunate to have (Denehan) as both its operations officer and commander. He has provided that calm, steady leadership critical to running this flying operation, and more importantly brought his unique special operations perspective,” he said.

Davis that that Denehan’s mature hand enabled the “small, little  Air Force outpost deep in the heart of Army country” to succeed and continue to provide some of the best  trained pilots to fill the unrelenting demand for warriors in five Air Force major commands.

Davis then thanked him for a job well done.

“(Denehan) flawlessly managed  contractors, civilians and Airmen; received an excellent rating on our Headquarters Air Education and Training Command combined unit inspection in 2012; he got 28 TH-1Hs on our ramp and has managed the largest rotary wing flying hour program in the Air Force, which is around 9,000 hours a year.”

The squadron has around 300 total workers, with only 100 active-duty Airmen.

The course is around six months long for the Airmen, which follows the same pipeline as Army pilots, said Crigger.

Air Force students have accomplished a little over 100 hours in fixed-wing training when they arrive, he continued, and they will accomplish around 100 more hours in six months of rotary wing training before they are sent to their major weapon systems training in Albuquerque, N.M.

Crigger said the only thing he is worried about is what every commander worries about, making mistakes.

“Everyone goes through their military career and sees things they wish they could change, so I just hope I don’t mess anything up and I can put in as many effective changes as I can.”

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/128486/

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