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Soldiers salute during a change-of-command ceremony at Fort Carson.

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Lt. Col. Jeff Strange said he felt like the winner of the Air Force lottery when he found out he would get to command the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron on Fort Carson.

Two years later, he left his post as new leadership takes shape.

Fort Carson’s only Air Force members got a new boss on a parade field with views of Cheyenne Mountain as a backdrop and about 40 onlookers.

The new leader, Lt. Col. Craig Cude, said he looks forward to working with the most talented airmen in the service.

“They’re considered special warfare airmen, so they’re a little cut above the rest, both physically and mentally in their abilities,” said Cude, who has been in the service for 16 years.

The squadron helps Army units on the ground call down bombs and missiles from Air Force planes. In war, the airmen are highly valued by their Army compatriots in need of serious firepower.

The unit is unparalleled in its success, said Col. Charles Drouillard, who oversees the 13th from a higher headquarters in Texas.

Several airmen won prestigious awards under Strange’s leadership, and his legacy probably will be felt for years as he leaves to teach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Drouillard said.

Fort Carson soldiers show off their athleticism

“The opportunity to lead a group of men and women who are of such high caliber as the ones that I just got finished leading is frankly kind of hard to put into words,” Strange said. “It’s an awesome responsibility; I got the chance to work with the best people in the Air Force, the best people in the duty in my opinion, and help them to go down range and fight on behalf of our nation is the highest of honor I could imagine.”

Cude said he is most looking forward to getting to know the members of the squadron.

“One of the reasons I volunteered to lead this kind of squadron was because there are a lot of young airmen that are still growing, have a long way to develop, and I get to play a role in mentoring them along with my other supervisors and leaders,” he said.

But Cude emphasized that he is not expecting the airmen to be perfect, despite their reputation of being as such.

He hopes that those inevitable mistakes will lead to greatness on the battlefield.

“My goal is to kind of have them embrace a learning attitude, not just training. I want them to have small failures so they can learn from those so when they go down range they’re succeeding and not failing,” he said. “I want to build more professional culture within this community and be as tactically proficient as I can. I’m just looking forward to leading and growing with them.”

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