Batcats welcome new commander
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members across Team Kadena joined the 353rd Special Operations Group to welcome a new leader.
Lt. Col. Ben Maitre assumed command of the 353rd SOG during a ceremony held here May 10.
Maj. Gen. George Williams, Air Force Special Operations Command vice commander, highlighted the group's recent accomplishments before passing the 353rd SOG guidon.
"Your accomplishments showcase your unfaltering dedication to the mission, the capability to sustain excellence and an ability to undertake America's toughest security challenges at any time and any place," Williams said. "It's safe to say that the 353rd Special Ops Group is revving on all cylinders, and Colonel Maitre is the perfect individual to assume the controls and continue this tradition of excellence."
Before arriving at Kadena, Maitre was a National Defense Fellow at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for coordinating varied diplomatic initiatives while assigned to the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. He has commanded joint special operations forces in combat in Iraq, along with the 7th Special Operations Squadron in Royal Air Force Mildenhall. He has flown more than 4,000 hours in the MC-130H and HC-130H and has also been an aircraft commander, instructor and evaluator pilot in the Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Although he is new to the island, this is not Maitre's first time at Kadena. His operational Air Force career began here while assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron in 1998, so he returns with the knowledge of the vital role the 353rd plays here in the Pacific.
"While we as Americans face the challenges of a complex and dynamic global arena, as Pacific Air Commandos, our posture toward those opportunities is ultimately straightforward," Maitre said. "I charge each of you to give the best of who you are so that this group may make the most of you. Our continued success demands nothing less."