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An Airman from the 4th Special Operations Squadron became the first female flying squadron commander in Air Force Special Operations Command during a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida on Feb. 20.
Lt. Col. Brenda Cartier assumed command of the 4th SOS, which employs the AC-130U Spooky gunship, from Lt. Col. Jim Rodriguez in a hangar packed with family, friends and colleagues.
“It’s a historic moment for us in AFSOC,” said Col. Dennis Pannell, 1st Special Operations Group commander, who officiated the ceremony.
Colonel Cartier is a fire control officer on the gunship with more than 4,000 flying hours, and previously served as the squadron’s operations officer under Colonel Rodriguez.
“She’s well prepared and well trained to take on this task, and we really look forward to her ability to lead this squadron in combat,” Colonel Pannell said.
Women at the front lines are no longer rare. For the story of some realy tough ladies, readThe Few. The Proud.: Women Marines in Harm’s Way
Colonel Rodriguez called the new commander his friend and confidant.
“She has tremendous patience, intellect and unending energy,” he said. “She will take this squadron on to new and greater things.”
Colonel Rodriguez served as commander for 22 months, during which time the squadron was constantly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, added four operational aircraft and was named best flying squadron in AFSOC for 2007.
“Your leadership is clearly evident,” Colonel Pannell said. “While there is tremendous talent in the 4th [SOS], it takes steady and mature leadership to develop it. You’ve laid the foundation for many leaders of Spooky lineage.”
Colonel Rodriguez’s family members traveled from as far as Honduras to witness the ceremony. He received the Meritorious Service Medal for his tenure as squadron commander and operations officer.
Colonel Cartier said she was “very blessed” to take command of a squadron with such a rich history and such a relevant mission.
“When I arrived 12 years ago, the gunships were the newest weapons system, unproven in combat, but ready for action,” she said. “Today we are the longest continuously deployed AFSOC weapons system, and one of the most combat-experienced squadrons in Air Commando history.”
The 4th SOS has been deployed in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom since Sept. 11, 2001, logging more than 1,800 accident-free combat sorties.
“We will continue to be challenged and called upon to support our nation’s efforts,” Colonel Cartier said. “I assure you I will give you the full measure of my commitment to ensure the 4th SOS remains the most feared and revered weapons system platform on the battlefield.”