353rd SOG welcomes new commander

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, to signify the beginning of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, to signify the beginning of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command and U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, exchange words prior to the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Traveling to the Pacific, Webb presided over the ceremony and was accompanied by AFSOC Command Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Smith, who met with enlisted members during an all-call following the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command and U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, exchange words prior to the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Traveling to the Pacific, Webb presided over the ceremony and was accompanied by AFSOC Command Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Smith, who met with enlisted members during an all-call following the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, gather in preparation for the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, gather in preparation for the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, enter as the official party for the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, enter as the official party for the change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, salute the colors during the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group and U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd SOG, salute the colors during the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, to signify the end of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, to signify the end of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group to signify the beginning of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, symbolically passes the guidon to U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group to signify the beginning of his command during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which one officer relinquishes command and passes it to another. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, delivers a speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd Special Operations Group during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, delivers a speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd Special Operations Group during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, and thanks Freeman for his leadership to the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, shakes hands with U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, and thanks Freeman for his leadership to the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, delivers his last speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)
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U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, delivers his last speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, delivers his first speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kirby now commands more than 850 Airmen who make up the only Air Force special operations unit in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)
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U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, incoming commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, delivers his first speech to the Air Commandos of the 353rd SOG during a change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kirby now commands more than 850 Airmen who make up the only Air Force special operations unit in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Emerick)

U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, walks off the stage following conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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U.S. Air Force Col. William Freeman, outgoing commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, walks off the stage following conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Freeman leaves Kadena for an assignment at AFSOC Headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, walks off the stage following conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kirby now commands more than 850 Airmen who make up the only Air Force special operations unit in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Kirby, commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group, walks off the stage following conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Kirby now commands more than 850 Airmen who make up the only Air Force special operations unit in the Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, walks off the stage following the conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, walks off the stage following the conclusion of the 353rd SOG change of command ceremony, June 19, 2017 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Webb was the presiding official of the ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

The Pacific Air Commandos from the 353rd Special Operations Group welcomed their new commander during a change of command ceremony June 19 at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Col. William Freeman relinquished command of the 353rd SOG to Col. Jason Kirby, formerly 353rd SOG deputy commander.

“There is no greater sacrifice and reward than that of command,” said Kirby. “I’m committed serving the Air Commandos of the 353rd SOG and their families as we continue to defend our nation’s interests in the Pacific.”

Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, presided over the ceremony. Additional distinguished guests included U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Daniel Yoo, commander of Special Operations Command Pacific and Brig. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind, commander of Special Operations Command Korea.

Kirby now commands more than 850 Airmen who make up the only Air Force Special Operations unit in the Pacific. After serving as deputy commander for the past year, he is no stranger to the group and its people.

“I witnessed Colonel Freeman’s steadfast commitment to the mission and Airmen and am grateful for the opportunity to have served as his deputy,” said Kirby. “As we move forward, I know I’m taking charge of the most professional and innovative Airmen the Air Force has to offer.”

Kirby is a command pilot with more than 3,100 flying hours in the MC-130J, MC-130H, C-146A, Do-328, MC-130P and C-130E. He previously led 225 U.S. personnel supporting coalition counter-terrorism operations as the commander of Joint Special Operations Air Component-Africa. Prior to this, he served on the Joint Staff J-3 as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director for Special Operations and Counterterrorism. He has served as a joint service officer, weapons officer, evaluator pilot, and on the JSOAC-Iraq staff.

“It’s not easy departing Okinawa after these past two years of serving with the finest,” said Freeman. “However, it’s much easier because of the leadership team who’s taking over. After getting to know Colonel Kirby for these past 10 months, I know he is undoubtedly the right person, at the right time, for this job.”

The group maintains a worldwide mobility commitment, participates in Pacific theater exercises as directed and supports humanitarian and relief operations. Its five squadrons are all based at Kadena and missions include operating and flying the MC-130H Combat Talon II and MC-130J Commando II aircraft, as well as special tactics, specialized operations support and maintenance.

The 353rd SOG is prepared to conduct a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions. In addition, the group develops wartime and contingency plans, which effectively use the full range of fixed wing capabilities, to include the infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of U.S. and allied special operations forces.

The outgoing commander reflected on his time at the 353rd SOG as commander.

“We’ve overcome many challenges together these past two years. Through integrating six new aircraft without taking a knee, responding to multiple crises, pushing liaisons to joint headquarters, partnering with Marines on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, conducting countless typhoon evacuations, and writing the procedures for MC-130 formation events, you never lost your focus,” said Freeman. “You all understand why we’re here and are truly a forward deployed air arm of U.S. Special Operations Command as theater experts covering down on 52 percent of the globe.”

Freeman leaves Kadena for an AFSOC Headquarters assignment at Hurlburt Field, Fla.