Change of Command: 6 Things to Know

Photo credit: US Navy

In the submarine community there are a number of time-honored traditions and ceremonies. We’ve previously talked about christening ceremonies, but what about a Change of Command ceremony? Here’s a few things you should know.

What is a Change of Command ?

A Change of Command is a ceremony to honor the outgoing Commanding Officer (CO) and welcome the incoming Commanding Officer. This is the culminating event to celebrate the successes of the ship and to officially transfer authority from one commander to another. These ceremonies occur for submarines, ships, squadrons, and shore commands throughout the military.

What does the ceremony include?

The ceremony begins as most military ceremonies do by welcoming those in attendance, announcing the official party, singing the national anthem, and an invocation. Additionally, there are speeches given by a guest speaker, the outgoing commanding officer, and the relieving commanding officer. The orders are read aloud and the outgoing CO is relieved by the incoming CO. The ceremony is typically an hour to an hour and a half in length and ends with a benediction.

Why should you attend?

If you are invited to a Change of Command ceremony it is a great naval tradition to witness. It’s also an excellent way to show your support for the outgoing CO and  the incoming CO and their families. 

What should you wear?

The uniform is the service dress uniform of the season and the official party is typically in full dress uniform. As a guest it is best to think business attire- no jeans. Personally I’d wear a dress or nice pants and blouse depending on weather and where the ceremony is to be held. It’s an excellent event to get pictures with your sailor as they don’t frequently break out the service dress uniforms!

Tip: Since dress uniforms aren’t worn frequently, it is always a good idea to make sure the sailor verifies all uniform parts are on hand and fit correctly.  

Can I bring my children?

The ceremony involves a lot of listening to speeches and sitting quietly, typically for 60-90 minutes. Personally, I would expect “babes in arms” and possibly school age children in attendance as toddler’s attention spans are not quite long enough for these events. You know your children best. 

Is there a post-ceremony celebration?

First, there is a reception immediately following the ceremony for all crew, guests, and family members typically at or near the location. The departing CO and his family often host a celebration where the wardroom and other guests are invited. It is very celebratory and is generally at the home of the departing CO. The new CO generally has his own low key, family only, celebration deferring the larger celebration to the departing CO. 

Have you been to a Change of Command ceremony? Comment below and tell us!

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