The U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command held a change of command ceremony at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) on Sept. 19 with Capt. Jarod Steen assuming command of the Yuma flight detachment from Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christopher Eicher.
The flight detachment has supported training operations of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School's Military Free Fall School (MFFS) at YPG since 2014. The MFFS has utilized the proving ground's vast ranges to train thousands of the military's most elite paratroopers since opening in 1996.
Steen assumes the post as the detachment's second commander. The detachment safely flew in excess of 1,500 missions and 8,200 sorties during Eicher's tenure, which earned high praise.
"He built the flight detachment from the ground up and executed missions for the school within 18 hours of the first aircraft arriving on station," said Maj. Bryan Pierce, company commander. "During his tenure as the unit detachment commander, the unit maintained an over 99% mission support rate and established a brand name reputation known for military free fall mission support west of the Mississippi."
Steen said he is ready to hit the ground running.
"It's a privilege to command and I'm looking forward to what the future will bring," he said. "I thank the Soldiers and civilians for welcoming me to the command and continuing to make the mission happen on a daily basis."
The flight detachment maintains and flies the C27J, formerly used as a niche cargo plane to supplement the larger C-130. The aircraft was extensively tested at YPG prior to being fielded and is regarded by many as a high performance aircraft. It achieves altitude more quickly than the aircraft formerly used to support the MFFS prior to the creation of the flight detachment, and also accommodates two to three times as many jumpers at a time, which has contributed to a significant expansion of MFFS training opportunities in recent years.