By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 17, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 17, 2016) -- Joint operations drives today's military force, and Fort Rucker's role in those efforts was apparent as Soldiers, Airmen families and friends welcomed a new Air Force commander to the installation.
Air Force Lt. Col. James L. Grigson assumed command of the 23rd Flying Training Squadron from Air Force Lt. Col. Jerry L. Crigger during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 10.
Col. Shelley A. Rodriguez, 58th Operations Group commander, presided over the ceremony and welcomed the new commander while she bid farewell to Crigger.
"(Grigson), you've got big shoes to fill," she said. "You've got a great squadron to lead, and you've got to guide and mentor it to a level even higher than it is, and I have no doubt that you'll do this. It's a tremendous challenge, but I know you're up to the task."
Rodriguez spoke of the new commander's past as a Soldier, which she said makes him perfect to take command.
"(Grigson) is particularly suited for this job since he was a former Army warrant officer who graduated from Fort Rucker 25 years ago, so he knows the place well," said the colonel. "Of course, he saw the light and now works for us, so thank you to our Army friends out there for giving him the foundation for success and turning one of the good ones over to us. We know he is overqualified for the job."
Grigson's qualifications include more than 4,900 flight hours in multiple airframes, including the UH-1H, UH-60A/L, HH-60G and the TH-1H.
He began his military career when he entered the Army and served as a warrant officer from 1990-1999. He joined the Air Force in 1999 when he graduated from Air Force Training School and has served in multiple assignments throughout his career, including tours with the 66th Rescue Squadron, the 512th Rescue Squadron and Headquarters Air Force at the Pentagon.
Grigson graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 2012, and has served in multiple deployments in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, as well as Operation Northern Watch.
"Flying in south Alabama with this awesome squadron, training new Airmen to meet the Air Force mission -- it doesn't get any better than that," said Grigson of his new assignment. "Night Nailers … you all are machines, and I'm excited to continue working for you and leading you as we continue to train the best helicopter pilots in the world."
The 23rd FTS is comprised of about 50 permanent-party Airmen and cycles more than 100 students through its training courses annually, said Rodriguez.
"(This unit) lays the foundation of the Air Force's vertical-lift platforms," she said. "Those who graduate populate major commands and execute the nation's most important missions; special operations, rescue, nuclear security and the national capital support missions."
During Crigger's time in command, more than 260 Air Force helicopter pilots graduated, most of who are now deployed across the globe, said Rodriguez, leaving Grigson with large shoes to fill.
Despite the high level of responsibility, the incoming commander said he is up to the task and looks forward to leading the unit.
"Colonel Rodriguez, thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve under you," he said. "I don't take the responsibility of this job lightly and, although I have big shoes to fill, I will not let you down."