The new leader of Air Force Space Command is a familiar face.

Gen. John "Jay" Raymond took over Tuesday from Gen. John Hyten at a Peterson Air Force Base ceremony and set his top priority as maintaining America's battlefield edge in space and computer warfare over rivals who are rushing to catch up.

"Challengers know how much we rely on those domains," said Raymond, who has spent nearly a third of his career serving at Peterson, including commanding the base's 21st Space Wing.

Raymond came back to Colorado Springs from a Pentagon job that left him well-versed in threats to American superiority. As the Air Force's top operations officer, he helped plan missions around the globe and make sure the service was positioned to react quickly to potential attacks. He said rivals have kept close watch on American campaigns in the Middle East and have seen how the U.S. uses computer information, satellite communications and precision navigation to target enemies.

"Our adversaries have been taking notes," he said.

With 38,000 airmen stationed around the globe, Space Command is the planet's biggest consumer of satellites and has a rapidly growing force that acts as the Air Force's computer warfare and network defense arm. The command's assets in space include the Global Positioning System, Earth's most widely used satellite constellation.

The old boss, Gen. Hyten, left Peterson bound for Omaha after the ceremony Tuesday. He'll take the reins of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base next week, where his duties will include overseeing America's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

At Space Command, Hyten led an effort to put more experienced airmen on satellite crews and instituted the toughest training yet to simulate attacks in orbit. Russia, China and Iran have demonstrated capabilities that could be used to target satellites in orbit.

Hyten gave credit to his airmen.

"We delivered effects around the world that were only theories a couple of years ago," Hyten said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein had praise for both generals.

"General Hyten is nothing short of a pioneer," Goldfein said before awarding Hyten the Distinguished Service Medal, the service's highest award for meritorious work not involving combat.

He lauded Hyten for pushing to bring the Joint Interagency Space Operations Center to Colorado Springs last year. The center, at Schriever Air Force Base, has brought Space Command experts from intelligence agencies to run a series of classified war games.

"This experience is setting the table for the way we coordinate operations in space in ways never imagined," Goldfein said.

Goldfein praised Raymond for his work at the Pentagon and pointed to his expertise in satellites and computer warfare.

"General Raymond was the obvious choice," he said.

Raymond said one of the best things about is new job is it brings him back to Colorado Springs.

"It is great to be home," he said.

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.