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18th ASOG welcomes new commander

  • Published
  • By Marc Barnes
  • 43d Air Mobility Opeations Group
POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. — Airmen and special guests here welcomed a new commander to the 18th Air Support Operations Group as Col. Dane Crawford assumed command of the group from Col. Christopher Jensen during a change-of-command ceremony June 7.

Col. Jeffery Valenzia, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing commander, presided over the ceremony, which was held in the Airmen’s Center here.  

Valenzia welcomed Crawford back to Pope, where he previously served as the director of operations in the 682nd Air Support Operations Squadron from 2011-2013. He described Crawford as a remarkable leader who is well prepared to lead a remarkable group. 

“To the Crawford family … thank you for being here, and welcome to the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing,” Valenzia said. “The challenges are plentiful, but so too are the opportunities. Today you take the guidon of a unit that I know you appreciate. 

“I welcome you back to Fort Bragg, and although you’ve only been away from this unit a short while, I can assure you much has changed,” Valenzia continued. “(My wife) and I look forward to working with both of you as you lead this elite group of warriors, to ensure their success not just in today’s missions, but to prepare them for tomorrow’s.”

Crawford comes to Pope from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he recently completed the U.S. Army’s Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies Program. He’s a 1995 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a senior pilot with more than 1,300 hours in the F-15C Eagle.

He’s previously served in a variety of leadership positions, including commander of the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and as the deputy commander of the 3rd Air Support Operations Group at Fort Hood, Texas.  

Upon taking command, Crawford thanked Valenzia for his trust and confidence, and said he is honored to have the opportunity to lead the group as it continues supporting its Army partners here, and throughout the eastern United States. 

“To the professional warriors of the 18th ASOG, I am truly honored to step into the tremendous Army and Air Force legacy surrounding the 18th Airborne Corps, its divisions and our units,” Crawford said. “What an honor to serve side-by-side with the 82nd Airborne, who jumped into Sicily, Salerno and Normandy.”

He went on to highlight several of the group’s units which support other Army divisions at other locations — including the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia — and concluded with a few words to Tactical Air Control Party and other Airmen who serve in the 18th ASOG here at Pope. 

“I am proud of our TACP heritage … that began in Korea, where we took B-26 pilots, turned them in to ground forward air controllers, and grabbed radio operators and turned them into ROMADs. We sent them to a two-day jump school and then a week later they were jumping into Korea. We’ve come a long way in training our (TACP) Airmen,” the colonel said. 

“And to the 18th Weather Squadron, activated in 1942, who first supported the 8th Air Force daylight bombing campaign in Germany, what a tremendous legacy,” he added. “I am proud of how you continue to live up to that legacy of the past by your actions in combat and in garrison today. I look forward to serving alongside each and every one of you.”

Jensen, who took command of the 18th ASOG in July 2015, leaves Pope to become the inspector general for Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.