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The Beartooth Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol ushered in new leadership Thursday evening.

A change-of-command ceremony was held at the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center in Billings, where dozens welcomed incoming squadron commander Lt. Kevin Lariviere and said farewell to the outgoing commander, Maj. Martin Surdahl.

“As commander, I hope to make a great influence on both the program and cadets,” Lariviere said. “It’s a big job and a huge task, but I’m excited and optimistic about the future of the program.”

Civil Air Patrol is a program similar to ROTC that helps get kids interested in aerospace engineering and the Air Force. The all-volunteer organization is made up of 31 senior members and 12 cadets who perform emergency community services and take part in aerospace education and cadet programs focused on preparation for military services.

Lariviere first got involved with the CAP two years ago to support his 14-year-old son in his efforts to become a cadet. Lariviere has since moved up the ranks and will serve a four-year term as commander.

Surdahl relinquished command after a four-year term for the squadron and seven years of involvement with CAP.

“I will take with me patience and leadership qualities that I have gained from my time with the squadron,” Surdahl said. “I look forward to the program continuing in its development and growth with more cadets and community leaders. Lt. Lariviere is very task-driven, and I know he’ll help instill these qualities in the squadron.”

Lt. Col. Charles Lynch, vice commander, acted as the master of ceremony and dressed Lariviere’s uniform with a promoted silver bar.

“The change-of-command ceremony is deeply rooted in military tradition,” Lynch said.

Since its inception in 1952, The Beartooth Composite Squadron, made up entirely of volunteers, has coordinated with law enforcement agencies, the Red Cross, FEMA and the Air Force to assist city, county, state and federal agencies in search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

The Aerospace Education Program educates cadet members in aviation, aerospace science and space research, coaching the teens in leadership skills and citizenship.

Senior High student Sam Bochy, 17, said he is in his fourth year as a cadet with the program and is in the application process to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland upon graduation in May.

“Being a cadet has informed me on traditions and processes of military expectations,” Bochy said. “It’s really helped to qualify me in flight training for the Air Force.”

“The change of command is another step toward revolutionizing our squadron. It means a lot to see that people care about this program.”

Teens interested in joining the Civil Air Patrol are welcome. The group meets from 6:30 to 9 p.m. every Thursday at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.

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